Wisdom teeth — otherwise known as third molars — can be tricky newcomers. Sometimes they’ll grow in just fine to join your other teeth and some other times, they’ll become impacted. 

As many as two-thirds of these may struggle to break through.

An impacted tooth is simply what happens when this occurs. The tooth may become lodged in the gum or may have partially broken through. It may be unnoticeable or it may cause some discomfort.

So the question is, what should you do if you suspect your tooth may be impacted? Here’s what you need to know.

Determine If You Have an Impacted Tooth 

Although a professional will be able to tell you for sure if your wisdom teeth have become impacted, there are some ways you can figure out if it’s likely on your own. The signs include:

  • Swollen and red gums around the back of the mouth which may be sore to touch
  • Bleeding around the back of the mouth
  • Jaw pain around that area, which may even spread to headaches
  • Difficulty opening your mouth
  • A bad taste or smell coming from your mouth

While any of these signs, while mild and temporary, may simply indicate wisdom teeth coming in, prolonged or strong signs suggest that your tooth may have become impacted.

Visit a Dentist

If you’ve decided it’s very possible that you have an impacted tooth, it’s time to visit a dentist. They’ll be able to take x-rays and confirm what’s going on as well as decide the best solution. 

Wait and See

The first — but less common — recommendation is simply just to wait and see if the tooth erupts on its own. If it’s not severely impacted and causing you no symptoms then the dentist may want to see if it can right itself. 

This is possible, though much harder when your mouth is already crowded as wisdom teeth need room to grow in.


Whether you’re waiting to see or just need to get through the days to your appointment for further treatment, you should get some painkillers to reduce the discomfort. Over-the-counter painkillers are usually sufficient, but you can also get some stronger ones prescribed if you have a while to wait or it’s severely impacting your quality of life.

Rinsing out your mouth with lukewarm saltwater can also help to prevent infection in the meantime.

Oral Surgery

Surgical removal is the most likely solution for an impacted tooth. This is especially true if it’s causing you some major symptoms, though is usually most important to prevent it from causing other problems. It can move your other teeth or cause them to become painful too.

It usually only takes a few days on average to recover from extraction surgery, though you will have to take it easy for a while.


If you’ve had extraction surgery, the most common aftercare instructions are as follows:

  • Remove the gauze after a few hours and put some ice on the area to reduce swelling
  • Limit your activity for a couple of days, as this can disturb the soft tissue while it’s healing
  • For around three days, you should only eat soft foods and make sure you don’t hurt the area
  • Brush and floss still but avoid the place where the tooth was taken out
  • Prop your head up while sleeping, as otherwise, you could prolong the healing

If you don’t follow these aftercare instructions, you could risk infection. 

What Happens If You Leave an Impacted Tooth Alone?

With so many people having a fear of the dentist or just being too busy to make time for it, they might find that their visit becomes delayed without even realizing it. Some may just avoid going altogether, leaving the impacted tooth to get worse.

While it is possible that an impacted tooth may result on its own, the more common scenario is that the impacted tooth will get increasingly painful. It could push other teeth aside in the mouth and cause them to become misaligned and, worst-case scenario, it could even become infected.

If you get gum disease around the area it can lead to many further problems, even extending beyond the mouth and into the body.

The only real thing you can do about an impacted tooth is to see a professional and take their advice. Dentists see lots of impacted teeth in their career and the surgery to correct this is usually very short and has a very low risk of complications.

Even if you have no symptoms but know your tooth is impacted, you should still see a dentist anyway and follow their advice. Despite the fact that the tooth may not currently be causing you pain, it has the potential to do so in the future — and may be working away on issues already that just haven’t manifested enough for you to notice them. 

See a Dentist If You Have an Impacted Tooth

If you have an impacted tooth, the only good thing to do is see a dentist. You can try and diagnose the issue yourself to better prepare for what may be coming in terms of treatment, but dentists are trained to spot these issues and advise you on what the best solution is.

If you need wisdom tooth removal — or suspect you might — come and talk to us today at Knoxville Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery. It’ll be safe and virtually pain-free, so no need to fear coming in!