For most of us, our adult teeth develop and "come in" normally and as expected - straight up and through the gums. This isn't always the case, though. When a tooth becomes stuck in the jawbone and either doesn't emerge completely or doesn't break through the gums at all, it is considered impacted. An impacted tooth can cause a wide range of complications, including improperly aligned bite, pain, and infection. As the last teeth to emerge, wisdom teeth are the most commonly impacted, but any tooth in the mouth can technically become impacted (even baby teeth). Although impacted teeth can cause problems, if you have one or more impacted teeth, have no fear! Simple procedures made possible through modern technology can permanently remove these problem-causing teeth and save your other teeth from become affected.
Why do teeth become impacted?
Impacted teeth occur when a tooth does not completely emerge. When the gaps between teeth leave no room for a new tooth to emerge, when a jaw is too small to give adequate space for wisdom teeth, or when teeth become twisted or displaced while trying to emerge a tooth can become impacted.
Which teeth most commonly experience impactions?
Although any tooth can become impacted, the third molars, also called wisdom teeth, are the most common teeth to experience impactions. As the last teeth to emerge, wisdom teeth are often left with very little jaw space in the back of the mouth through which to emerge, causing them to become impacted. The maxillary canines, also called cuspids or eye teeth, are the second most common teeth to experience impactions. Normally, the maxillary canine teeth are the last of the front teeth to erupt into place, typically around age 13, and cause any space left between the rest of the front teeth to close.
What are the signs of an impacted tooth?
If you have an impacted tooth, you may not even be able to feel it, and often an impacted tooth (especially an impacted wisdom tooth) remains untreated. If you experience symptoms related to impacted teeth, here is what to look for:
- Bad breath
- Prolonged headache or jaw ache
- Pain or tenderness of the gums or jaw bone
- Occasional swelling of lymph nodes of the neck
- Unpleasant taste when biting down on or near the area ¥ Visible gap where a tooth did not emerge
- Occasional difficulty opening the mouth
- Redness and swelling of the gums around the impacted tooth
What should I do if I have an impacted tooth?
If you suspect you have an impacted tooth, or if a tooth is causing you pain, negatively affecting surrounding teeth, or leaving a significant gap in your smile, you dentist will prescribe an appropriate treatment plan. Most often, the tooth will be removed surgically by an oral surgeon in order to protect the surrounding teeth. White River Dental Columbus, Indiana dentists Dr. Aaron Strickland and Dr. Brittany Curnutt are experienced and caring professionals who will work with you to develop the most appropriate course of action to remedy any dental issues you're facing, including those pesky impacted teeth.