Do you feel like your wisdom teeth are playing peek-a-boo with you, one moment appearing and the next, disappearing? It might seem like a wisdom tooth is sinking back into your gum tissue but the truth is, teeth cannot erupt and then retreat at will. Each type of tooth, from your incisors to your wisdom teeth, is programmed by nature to erupt at a specific time.
Once upon a time, when human jaws were larger, each tooth would erupt and take its place alongside the other teeth. However, over time, humans learned to process their food. Nature then decided that the human jaw no longer needed to be quite so large. But while human jaws shrunk, the number of teeth remained the same. Thus, wisdom teeth often struggle to fit.
There Isn't Always Enough Room
Since wisdom teeth are the last to erupt, they often encounter resistance on the way up. Human jaws are smaller, and that means many people simply do not have the space to accommodate any more teeth. If there isn't enough space, a wisdom tooth will either remain below the surface, blocked by the teeth above it, or only partially erupt.
When a tooth is lodged in the gum or only partially erupted, it is what dentists refer to as "impacted". When a wisdom tooth is impacted, infection can occur.
Why a Tooth May Appear to Sink
If only a portion of a wisdom tooth has managed to erupt, the gum tissue covering the hidden portion of the tooth could become infected. Food particles and bacteria may build up underneath the flap of gum tissue covering the wisdom tooth, causing inflammation, swelling and pain.
This condition is known as pericoronitis. However, another symptom of pericoronitis is gingival hyperplasia, also known as gingival overgrowth. This occurs when in reaction to the infection, the gum tissue begins to grow over the visible portion of the wisdom tooth. There will also be considerable pain involved, but it may look like the tooth is sinking back into the gum.
Extraction May Be the Best Solution
Your dentist can help to bring the infection under control by cleaning the area and providing you with antibiotics, but if the tooth cannot erupt fully, then the infection will likely return. It may be better to first treat the infection, then see an oral surgeon who can surgically remove the tooth before the problem worsens.
If you think you may have pericoronitis, don't waste anymore time. Book a dental appointment so that the area can be cleaned as soon as possible. Pericoronitis can spread to the gum tissue of surrounding teeth and put you at risk of gum disease.
As a mum, I know how essential sport can be to children's development. Through team sports like soccer, kids learn persistence, sportsmanship and the value of supporting their team members. However, all that learning carries some risk as well, and a stray elbow or a ball to the face can result in oral injuries. I have been the mum rushing to the emergency room with a precious permanent tooth sitting in a cup of milk. Admittedly, at the time, I wasn't even sure if the cup of milk was the right solution. As a parent, you will face those situations, and I'm here to make sure you know what to do when they pop up. With this blog, let's explore children's dentistry and sports injuries together... I want you to have the info you need to stay cool, calm and collected, regardless of how many teeth are on the pitch.