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Palo Alto, CA
2290 Birch St, Ste A, Palo Alto, CA 94306.
(650) 503-6777
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Redwood City, CA
81 Birch Street, Redwood City, CA 94062.
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Santa Clara, CA
1394 Franklin St, Santa Clara, CA 95050.
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Know the Facts on Impaction

Blue Turtle Dental has the best family dentist Palo Alto has for many reasons. One aspect of our clinic that patients really value is our commitment to being there to help when an oral health problem arises that is causing discomfort– and preventing those situations in the first place!

Wisdom teeth impaction is less common with the ready removal of up to 85% of wisdom teeth, but it can still take place, so it’s something important to be aware of.

The low-down on wisdom teeth

Wisdom teeth are third molars. They are considered vestigial structures because, while they probably arrived as an evolutionary response to a diet filled with tough, coarse, and fibrous foods– we no longer live in the stone-age. We have utensils and blenders and ovens, and those third molars are no longer helpful.

More than that, when they arrive between the ages of 17 and 25, wisdom teeth can cause crowding of the existing teeth because our jaw size has become smaller than it was in prehistoric times. Because of this, around 85% of wisdom teeth in the USA are extracted.

What is an impacted tooth?

A wisdom tooth becomes impacted when it cannot erupt because it is blocked by another tooth. This happens when the tooth is turned sideways, at an angle, or pretty much pointing anywhere but up. It the jaw is already too full, a wisdom tooth can become impacted that way as well.

A description of impaction

Sometimes a patient doesn’t even realize a wisdom tooth is impacted; it may be completely painless. Imaging by dental professionals will inform your dentist that the wisdom teeth are impacted, and they can be extracted with no other problems than mild discomfort following a dental procedure of that nature.

When an impacted tooth erupts, or tries to erupt, it can cause gum swelling and pain that you might notice in your jaw, teeth, gums, or even the ear on that side of your head! This can be extremely uncomfortable and calls for a dental visit ASAP.

Another complication can occur if an impacted tooth partially erupts and then becomes stuck. This awkward in-between stage can not only be uncomfortable, but it can lead to infection. The tooth is difficult to clean and can be a repository for the flotsam and jetsam of the mouth; if this lingers too long an infection called pericoronitis can occur. This must be treated immediately to prevent the spreading of the infection to other nearby areas of the body.

In addition, impacted teeth can also decay where they are, or lead to cysts and, rarely, a benign tumor of the jaw– all of which can cause bone destruction. In short, prompt attention to an impacted wisdom tooth is a must!


At Blue Turtle Dental, we monitor our patients’ eruption schedules closely during regular appointments. However, it can be helpful for anyone who has erupted or unerupted wisdom teeth to be aware of the symptoms caused by third molar infection or inflammation.

Be on the look-out for:

  • Pain or difficulty moving the jaw
  • Swelling in gums
  • Halitosis (bad breath)
  • An unpleasant taste
  • Pain with biting, chewing, or opening mouth

If you experience these or other painful oral health condition, please contact our office immediately!

Problems with wisdom teeth are rare, but it’s important to be informed. If you have any further questions about your wisdom teeth or how their eruption can affect your oral health, do not hesitate to ask at your next appointment!

Photo Credit: Ricky Romero via Compfight cc