October 1, 2014Teeth Gone Wild – The Impacted Tooth Story, Part I
Heck it has been a long time! Hopefully everyone survived the summer. In Michigan, we had a cooler than normal summer which was great for those of us who like to do physical activity outside but not great for anybody who spends time on one of our amazing lakes. Here are a couple of pictures, including an obligatory family photo, of where my family vacations during the summer in Northern Michigan (we call it “Up north”). When I first told my wife about going “up north” she said: “You mean Michigan isn’t north enough!?” She had no idea how amazing northern Michigan can be.
Enough about my summer, let’s talk about impacted teeth. An impaction basically means that a tooth is surrounded by bone and is unable, or unwilling, to erupt into the mouth. Most people are familiar with impacted wisdom teeth, because most jaws do not have enough space to accommodate wisdom teeth so they simply hang out in the bone waiting for two things to happen: 1) they get removed, or 2) they become unruly and begin to misbehave potentially causing damage to perfectly healthy teeth. The photos below show impacted wisdom teeth that were not removed in time causing significant damage to the tooth on the lower right of the picture.
While we are on the subject of wisdom teeth let’s clear up a common misconception. Eruption wisdom teeth do not cause shifting of the lower front teeth. This has been a heated debate in the dental field for many years and nobody has been able to prove it to be true (despite some very good efforts). The shifting that occurs is generally due to the fact that as we age our lower teeth tend to drift forward more than our upper teeth. Our lower jaw is on an angle, towards the ground, compared to our upper jaw so gravity and chewing forces tend to push lower teeth forward. As they drift forward and begin to contact the upper front teeth they have no choice but to become crowded. For patients who have been treated, the eruption of the wisdom teeth around the age of 16-18 is generally the time when people think that retainers are no longer necessary. So this is truly a case of correlation and NOT causation.
Moral of this story is: get your wisdom teeth removed because an impacted wisdom tooth is NOT harmless, and WEAR YOUR RETAINERS!
Stay tuned for Part II of the Impacted Tooth Story where we will discuss teeth that truly have gone off of the beaten path.
Thanks for reading,