Wisdom teeth are the last teeth at the end of the upper and lower gums. The medical name for the wisdom teeth is the third molars, and there are usually four of them. Wisdom teeth usually grow through the gums during the late teens, or early twenties. The other 28 adult teeth are already in place by this time, so sometimes there is not enough room for the wisdom teeth in the mouth.
As they grow through, wisdom teeth are often obstructed by the other teeth and the lack of space, and can emerge at an angle. They may end up in the wrong place, or only emerge partially. Wisdom teeth that grow through in this way are known as impacted.
Impacted wisdom teeth
There are different types of impacted wisdom teeth, depending on the way that the tooth has grown through. These are: mesial impaction – where the tooth grows at an angle facing towards the front of the mouth, vertical impaction – where the tooth grows straight down but gets stuck against the tooth next to it, horizontal impaction – where the tooth grows horizontally and pushes against the tooth next to it, and, distal impaction – where the wisdom tooth turns away from the tooth next to it and becomes lodged in that position.
Removing wisdom teeth
Not all impacted wisdom teeth will need to be removed, but sometimes they can start to cause dental health problems.