Tooth Impaction; Symptoms and Treatments

An impacted tooth occurs when a tooth does not break through the gums. During the first year of life, the patient’s teeth start to erupt, breaking through the gums. These teeth are called the baby or primary teeth. This process occurs again when the secondary or adult teeth erupt and replace the baby teeth..

When the teeth do not erupt properly, they are impacted. The tooth may not erupt at all, or it may partially erupt. The third molars or wisdom teeth are most commonly impacted. These teeth are the last to erupt and often come in when patients are in their late teens or early twenties.

Various issues can cause an impacted tooth to get stuck in the bone or gum tissue. The area may be crowded and not have enough room for the new tooth. In other cases, the patient may have a smaller jaw. It is also possible for the teeth to come in at a bad angle or be displaced during the developmental phase. The end result is impacted teeth.

It is quite common for the wisdom teeth to be impacted and they may not cause any problems. Unfortunately, the teeth can push against adjacent teeth and cause alignment and crowding issues. It is easy for partially emerged teeth to collect food, plaque, and other debris. This can result in inflammation, bad breath, pain, and other issues. This debris can lead to decay and bone loss.

Below are common symptoms associated with impacted wisdom teeth:

  • Foul taste in the mouth and bad breath
  • Difficulty opening the mouth
  • Jaw or gum pain
  • Head and jaw aches
  • Red or swollen gums
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Gap where the tooth should be

If the dentist suspects the patient has an impacted tooth, they will evaluate the mouth, looking for swollen tissue or other signs of an impacted tooth. The impacted tooth may push against other teeth and cause them to shift out of place. Gum tissue may also show early signs of infection such as redness, drainage, and tenderness. Dental professionals often order x-rays to determine if patients have impacted teeth and to identify how they are positioned in the mouth.


Impacted wisdom teeth which do not result in any symptoms can sometimes remain in the mouth without any issues. The tooth will typically be monitored to ensure it does not cause problems. When patients have an impacted tooth in the front of their mouth, braces may be used to move it into the desired position.

If an impacted tooth is resulting in symptoms or causing pain, an over-the-counter pain reliever can often be used to provide temporary relief. Some patients find it helpful to rinse with ½ teaspoon of salt and one cup of warm, filtered water.

The dental professional often recommends the removal of impacted wisdom teeth. This helps ensure there is no impact to the existing teeth. In cases where there is infection, antibiotics may be prescribed before the tooth is extracted. While impacted teeth may be incredibly uncomfortable for some patients, they may not cause any issues for others. Treatment is highly successful when impacted teeth are removed before the onset of symptoms.

In most cases, the dental professional recommends the removal of impacted wisdom teeth before the roots are fully developed. This makes the tooth extraction easier and helps ensure the healing process is successful. The roots grow longer, become curved, and the bone becomes more rigid over time. This can increase the patient’s risk for complications and problems.

How Serious is an Impacted Tooth