A tooth that has been blocked from breaking through the gum is impacted. Impacted tooth means that the tooth does not have enough room to emerge or develop normally. There are partially impacted teeth that have started to break through the gums but for some reason, did not push through. Most of the time, impacted teeth are asymptotic and are only discovered through X-ray.
Some impacted teeth, especially wisdom teeth can cause pain, damage to surrounding teeth, and further dental problems. In some cases, there are impacted teeth that may cause no apparent or immediate problems. However, since these are hard to reach places, they may become hard to clean making them vulnerable to tooth decay and other gum diseases.
Impaction is commonly caused by excessive teeth overcrowding the gums which leaves insufficient space for a new tooth to emerge. Impaction may also happen when a baby tooth is lost before the new tooth is ready to emerge. This makes the remaining teeth to drift into the space that was meant to be for the new tooth. Nonetheless, impacted teeth are mostly wisdom teeth because they are the last permanent teeth to emerge and the jaw may lack enough space to accommodate them.
Complications of an impacted tooth may include:
- Pus in the gums
- Misalignment of teeth
- Gum inflammation and tenderness
- Plaque buildup on teeth and gums
- Periodontal disease on the neighboring tooth
- Chronic discomfort in the mouth
- Nerve damage (if the impacted tooth is near the mandibular nerve)
SYMPTOMS OF IMPACTED TOOTH
Some people may experience no symptoms at all. However, when an infection has affected the impacted tooth, damages may occur. For weeks or months, symptoms may occur such as:
- Halitosis (bad breath)
- Pain when chewing or biting
- Unpleasant taste on the mouth
- Swollen or bleeding gums
- Visible gap where a tooth did not emerge
CAUSES OF AN IMPACTED TOOTH
At large, a tooth becomes impacted when the mouth no longer has enough space which is a result of either genetics or orthodontic treatments.
During infancy, teeth start to emerge through the gums. These primary (baby) teeth are then replaced by permanent teeth. If a tooth does not come out completely or emerges only partially, it is considered to be impacted. The most common impacted teeth are the wisdom teeth because they are the last teeth to emerge. They usually come in ages 17 to 21.
An impacted tooth remains stuck for various reasons such as:
- Overcrowded teeth
- The jaw may be too small
- Twisted, tilted, or displaced tooth as they try to emerge
TREATMENTS OF IMPACTED TEETH
It is best to see your dentist as soon as you suspect you have an impacted tooth. A series of examination and an x-ray of your mouth will be done to determine if your underlying symptoms are caused by an impacted tooth. Treatment options may include:
MONITORING – If your impacted tooth shows no symptoms, a wait-and-see approach may be suggested by your dentist. Surgical removal of your tooth will be set aside and regular monitoring will be done to see if any problems develop. This is easier done in regular dental checkups.
SURGERY – Your dentist may suggest an extraction surgery if painful symptoms or negative effects on neighboring teeth arise. This is particularly done in the case of impacted wisdom teeth. The removal may be done in the dental surgeon’s office through a local anesthetic or a sedative. For surgeries done in the hospital, a general anesthetic is used. The procedure usually takes 45 to 60 minutes and recovery is 7 to 10 days.
ERUPTION AIDS – If the impacted tooth is canine, eruption aids may be used to help the tooth emerge properly. Braces, brackets, or extraction of blocking teeth are some of the eruption aids options. These are most effective for younger patients. This is because the roots are not yet fully developed, unlike older people whose roots have become longer and curved. If eruption cannot be achieved, then the impacted tooth will need to be removed and replaced with a dental implant or bridge.
For an impacted tooth that is not causing any problems, no treatment is needed. However, some dentists may still suggest extraction to prevent future problems.
There are home remedies you may try to help decrease discomfort:
- Over-the-counter pain relievers
- Swishing warm salt water (one-half teaspoon or 3g of salt in one cup or 240 mL water)
- Soothing mouthwashes
- Ice to reduce inflammation
Although these home remedies may be effective, you should still talk to your dentist. Pain relief treatments should only be used short term. If symptoms persist, it will likely need surgery or other medical interventions.