An impacted tooth is a tooth that is placed against the different tooth, bone, or soft tissue. The placement of the tooth makes it unlikely to fully erupt through the gums to reach its normal position in the mouth.
Causes of Tooth Impaction
An impacted tooth remains embedded in soft gum tissue or bone beyond its normal eruption time. The causes of this disease can be overcrowding. Other teeth may also become twisted, tilted, or displaced as the new teeth tries to emerge.
Impaction typically happens in the third molars, also called the wisdom teeth. Wisdom teeth, which begin to develop around the age of 9, are most likely to impact because they are the last teeth to erupt, generally between the late teens and early 20s. By then, the jaw has stopped growing and may be too small to have room for these 4 teeth.
Risk Factors related to Tooth Impaction
Impacted teeth are quite common. Points that can increase your risk of impacted teeth include:
- Lack of orthodontic treatment
Complications of untreated impacted teeth include:
- A cyst in the soft tissue under the gum line
- Tooth decay
- Poor alignment of other teeth
- Swelling of the gums, which can lead to infection—gingivitis
- Absorption of bone or adjacent teeth
Diagnosis of Tooth Impaction
- You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history by your doctor. A dental exam will be performed.
- To confirm tooth impaction, dental X-rays will be done.
Symptoms of Tooth Impaction
Some of the people with impacted teeth have no pain or other symptoms. In those who have symptoms, impacted teeth may cause:
- Redness and swelling of the gums around the impacted tooth
- Pain or tenderness of the gums or jaw bone
- Prolonged, unexplained headache or jaw ache
- Difficulty opening your mouth
- Unpleasant taste when biting down
- Bad breath
Treatment of Tooth Impaction
If an impacted tooth causes no pain, inflammation, or infection, and does not affect mouth alignment, no treatment will be further needed.
If there are symptoms, surgery is advised to extract all impacted teeth, preferably while the person is young. This can be done by a dentist under local anesthesia if the tooth is exposed and can be removed in 1 piece.
For difficult extractions, a referral may be made to an oral surgeon. In these cases, general anesthesia or an IV sedative may be used.
Until surgery is scheduled, the following may be advised:
- Over the counter pain relievers to ease pain and swelling
- Gargling with warm salt water to soothe the gums