"Wisdom teeth" are a special type of dental molars. Molars are
the chewing teeth located furthest in the back of the our mouth. Most people
have first, second, and third molars.
A person's third molars are their wisdom teeth. These teeth come in behind the
2nd molars (if there is room for them and they are aligned properly) usually
during a person's late teens or early twenties. Usually there are four wisdom
teeth: upper left, upper right, lower left, and lower right.
dental terminology an "impacted tooth" refers to a tooth that has failed
to emerge fully into its expected position. This failure to erupt properly may
occur either because there is not room enough in the jaw for the tooth, or
because the angulation of the tooth is improper.
A tooth becomes impacted due to lack of space in the dental arch and its
eruption is therefore prevented by gum, bone, another tooth or all three.
Lack of space occurs because our jaws have become smaller (through evolution),
we do not loose teeth through decay as frequently as in the past, and our
diet is such that our teeth do not wear down as much.
Our Houston dentists use specific terms to describe the positioning of
impacted wisdom teeth. There are two ways of describing the "impaction"
of the wisdom teeth. The most common way is to describe the direction of
the impaction. For example, mesial impaction (also called angular impaction)
simply means that the wisdom tooth is angled forward, toward the front
of the mouth. Distal impaction means the wisdom tooth is angled toward
the throat. Vertical impaction means the tooth is angled toward the head
and horizontal impaction means the tooth is pointed sideways.
Alternatively, the impacted teeth can be described according to the degree
of impaction. If the tooth is just covered with the gum, it is called soft-tissue
impaction. If the tooth is covered by the gum and some of the jaw bone,
it is called partial-bony impaction. If the tooth is covered under the
gum and all the jaw bone, it is called complete-bony impaction.