(Unemerged Tooth; Dental Impaction)
An impacted tooth is when a tooth becomes partially or fully trapped in the gums or jawbone. This can result in other teeth becoming twisted, tilted, or displaced as the new teeth try to emerge.
This problem is most common with third molars—also known as wisdom teeth. They typically erupt when a person is in their late teens and early 20s. This is when the jaw has stopped growing and may be too small to have room for these four teeth.
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A tooth may be impacted due to overcrowding or because it is growing in the wrong direction or position.
Impacted teeth are common. Things that may raise the risk are:
- Lack of orthodontic treatment
Some people with impacted teeth do not have symptoms. Those who do may have:
- Redness and swelling of the gums around the impacted tooth
- Pain or tenderness of the gums or jaw bone
- Problems opening the mouth
- A bad taste in the mouth
- Bad breath
The dentist will ask about symptoms and past dental health. A dental exam will be done.
X-rays will be done to confirm the diagnosis.
An impacted tooth that is not causing problems or affecting mouth alignment may not need treatment.
In others, the goal of treatment will be to remove the impacted tooth through dental surgery. This may be done using local anesthesia to numb the area or general anesthesia to put the person to sleep.
There are no current guidelines to prevent impacted teeth.
- Guarnieri R, Bertoldo S, et al. Periodontal results of different therapeutic approaches (open vs. closed technique) and timing evaluation (< 2 year vs. > 2 year) of palatal impacted canines: a systematic review. BMC Oral Health. 2021 Nov 10;21(1):574.
- Mockutė G, Klimaitė G, et al. The Morphology of Impacted Maxillary Central Incisors: A Systematic Review. Medicina (Kaunas). 2022 Mar 22;58(4):462. doi: 10.3390/medicina58040462.
- Wisdom teeth. Mouth Healthy—American Dental Association website. Available at: http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/w/wisdom-teeth.
- Wisdom teeth management. American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons website. Available at: http://myoms.org/procedures/wisdom-teeth-management.
- Yang Y, Tian Y, et al. Relationship between Presence of Third Molars and Prevalence of Periodontal Pathology of Adjacent Second Molars: a Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Chin J Dent Res. 2022 Mar 16;25(1):45-55.
- Nicole S. Meregian, PA
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