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Incompletely erupted wisdom teeth can be approached in several different ways. We deal with the possible methods that your dentist might advise as well as the things going for and against that method.

Our wisdom teeth, also called as the third molars are the last teeth to erupt into the mouth. In fact, it is most common to see the wisdom teeth only partially erupted into the mouth [1]. This situation where the third molars only partially erupt is more troublesome than the wisdom teeth not erupting into the mouth at all. There are different schools of thought about the best way to deal with these teeth. Each method has its own advantages and disadvantages. Possible complications like infection after wisdom tooth removal, pain, and swelling after an elective procedure must be considered as well [2].

An incomplete eruption of wisdom teeth: Treatment Strategies

Removal of wisdom teeth without waiting

The first and most common method of dealing with incompletely erupted wisdom teeth is to get them removed as soon as possible [3]. There are numerous advantages of this method. Wisdom teeth are considered to be vestigial, that is they are no longer need for the healthy functioning of the dentition. Thus, their removal does not cause any loss to the patient [4].

Incompletely erupted wisdom teeth can also be quite difficult to clean. Patients tend to complain about food getting stuck in the area where the wisdom tooth is erupting. The wisdom teeth are also the furthest back teeth in the mouth and can often erupt towards the cheek or at an angle to other teeth [5].

All of these factors together make for an increased amount of likelihood that tooth decay will occur in the region where an incompletely erupted wisdom tooth is present.

Another problem that arises due to a lack of proper cleaning is inflammation and swelling of the gums. Patients can experience pain, swelling, and discomfort in speaking.

The idea behind removing the wisdom teeth before they have a chance to cause further damage and destruction in the mouth is to carry out the extractions in a planned manner and not when it becomes an emergency [6].

Waiting for the wisdom teeth to erupt completely

There is another school of thought which advocates waiting for the partially erupted wisdom teeth to find their proper place in the jaw. Dentists can view x-rays and assess the space inside the mouth to make an accurate assessment of whether the teeth will erupt into the mouth or not [7].

If that is indeed the assessment then the temporary discomfort caused by a partially erupted wisdom tooth can be managed with other methods.

A procedure called as operculectomy is also carried out in such cases. Operculectomy is the procedure in which a flap of gum covering the tooth is removed surgically. This flap of gum can make biting painful and can become inflamed due to constant injury [8].

Operculectomy is a simple procedure which helps reduce symptoms such as pain and discomfort without actually having to remove the wisdom tooth. The drawback of this method is that the flap of gum can regrow and cause further problems.

Waiting for wisdom teeth to erupt completely into the mouth is something that appeals to patients. It helps delay wisdom tooth removal and may help in resolving the symptoms as well. Unfortunately, it is not something that works too often. It could actually be a way of just delaying the inevitable [9].

Waiting until there is a problem

The third approach in dealing with incompletely erupted wisdom teeth is to wait and watch. While the likelihood of developing a problem is higher, it is by no means an absolute given. There are plenty of people that will never develop any trouble even if the wisdom teeth do not erupt completely inside the mouth.

Patients that prefer to wait until a problem actually occurs must be told about the potential complications. They should ideally also get checkups done every 6 months or so and nip the problem in the bud if it does start to appear.

Of all the methods, the last one is probably the one that is practiced in countries with a lower standard of dental care. It involves basically doing nothing even though the chances of developing a dental problem are significant [10].


Incompletely erupted wisdom teeth are a very common problem to have. The problem should be nipped in the bud decisively and prevent the other teeth from being compromised. People that have access to good quality care and can afford the treatment should get the wisdom teeth removed as and when they start to appear. The others, who have no other option but to wait, should try and keep immaculate oral hygiene to prevent pain, swelling, and decay from setting in.  

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