Is My Tooth Impacted?

An impacted tooth is a tooth which has not erupted through the gums and grown into position. The tooth may be stuck or impacted in the gums or bone. Untreated impacted teeth can cause a variety of different dental issues and health problems.

When a tooth cannot properly grow into the correct position on its own, it is considered impacted. This condition could be due to something blocking the tooth such as baby teeth which are still present. It can also be the result of insufficient room in the mouth. The teeth become stuck, partially break through the gums, or may be entirely below the gums.

Every patient is different, and it is possible to have one or multiple impacted teeth. The number of teeth impacted can vary based on how the teeth erupt and the cause. It is possible for patients to have baby teeth which are impacted, but not experience any issues with their adult teeth. Likewise, they can have adult teeth which are impacted and baby teeth which do not have any issues.

The wisdom teeth are most commonly impacted. In many cases, these teeth do not grow in properly due to a lack of space in the mouth. Impacted wisdom teeth are often removed when patients are in their late teens or early twenties.

Impacted teeth may cause significant pain or be completely painless. The teeth should be closely monitored during routine checkups to ensure there are no issues. Impacted teeth can cause discomfort, damage the adjacent teeth, and other health issues. Impacted wisdom teeth which do not have any symptoms may not need to be removed.

Common causes of impacted teeth are listed below.

  • Twisted tooth or a tooth which grew in at an angle and did not completely erupt
  • Overcrowded teeth
  • Small jaw with limited room for the teeth
  • Tooth which does not fit in the space
  • Genetic predisposition
  • Trauma or damage to the baby tooth that eventually impacts the adult tooth

All patients have two sets of teeth. The baby or primary teeth and the adult or secondary teeth. It is possible for both sets of teeth to be impacted. It is quite common for the adult teeth to be impacted from incorrect growth or from the delayed loss of the baby teeth. In some cases, the patient has plenty of room in their mouth to accommodate the wisdom teeth. Unfortunately, most patients lack the necessary space for the wisdom teeth which results in impaction.

Impacted teeth are not always visible as they may partially erupt and then get stuck. It is also possible for the teeth to be completely embedded in the gums. X-rays are commonly used to give the dental professional visibility into the positioning of the teeth. Signs commonly associated with impacted teeth include:

  1. Foul taste in the mouth or bad breath
  2. Gums which are swollen, red, tender, or painful
  3. Gaps between the teeth
  4. Head or jaw aches
  5. Discomfort when opening the mouth
  6. Difficulty with chewing or swallowing
  7. Premature or delayed loss of baby teeth

Patients who may have impacted teeth should follow up with their dentist for evaluation. The dental professional can order x-rays to determine if the teeth are impacted and how they are growing in. This also gives them insight if there is any concern or potential impact to the other teeth. Impacted teeth which result in symptoms often need to be extracted in order to prevent further damage to the other natural teeth.

Tooth Impaction Symptoms and Treatments