What is an impacted wisdom tooth?

My dentist told me that my wisdom teeth are impacted.  What does that mean?

As wisdom teeth (also known as third molars) begin to emerge in one’s teenage years or early twenties, they may become stuck in bone and tissue if there is not enough room in the mouth for the teeth.  When a wisdom tooth is stuck in bone or tissue, this is called impaction or an impacted wisdom tooth.

What are the different types of impacted wisdom teeth?

A wisdom tooth can be impacted completely in the bone, partially impacted in the bone, or impacted in the gum tissue.  There are also different angles in which a wisdom tooth can be impacted.  For example a wisdom tooth could be impacted horizontally, diagonally, or vertically.  These different features contribute to the complications of leaving the wisdom teeth in place versus extraction.

Is it necessary to pull my impacted wisdom teeth?

Impacted wisdom teeth can be ticking time bombs, waiting to cause pain at the least possible time.  A wisdom tooth could go years without being infected until it suddenly flairs up causing pain, swelling, and infection.  If a wisdom tooth looks like it could become symptomatic in the future, it is often better to be proactive versus reactive in extracting.