What Is An Impacted Tooth?

At Mountain West Dental Specialists, we’re proud to serve your family with care, consideration, and compassion in the Southwest. We know there’s practically nothing more uncomfortable than a toothache, especially when that toothache comes from something like an impaction! Impacted teeth lead to some of the most painful situations in dental care. Still, luckily, Dr. Allison and Dr. Keaton Tomlin are experts when it comes to quality dental care, and that includes knowing just what to do if you think you or a loved one may have an impacted tooth. Read on to learn more! 

What Even IS an Impacted Tooth?

Let’s start by unraveling the mystery of impacted teeth. Put simply, an impacted tooth is a dental condition where a tooth fails to break through the gum line. This occurrence is most commonly observed during infancy when permanent teeth replace primary (baby) teeth. Alternatively, it may occur when wisdom teeth, also known as the third set of molars, attempt to emerge between 17 and 21. These are the periods when impacted teeth are commonly seen, and most treatments for impacted teeth are typically administered.

What Causes Impaction?

Impacted teeth can occur due to various factors influenced by the complexity of dental development and the uniqueness of each individual’s smile. Here are some of the most common causes:

  • Overcrowding: One prevalent cause of tooth impaction is overcrowding; it occurs when there isn’t enough space in the mouth for the tooth to emerge. Wisdom teeth, being the last to erupt, often face this challenge.
  • Jaw Size and Structure: The size and structure of the jaw can play a significant role in tooth impaction. If the jaw is too small to accommodate all the teeth, crowding and impaction may arise. Wisdom teeth are particularly susceptible to impaction due to limited space in the back of the mouth.
  • Tooth Displacement: During an eruption, teeth may encounter obstacles or other teeth, leading to displacement. This encounter can cause them to become twisted, tilted, or displaced from their intended positions, resulting in impaction.
  • Abnormal Growth Patterns: Abnormalities in tooth development can contribute to impaction. Irregular tooth growth or anomalies in the eruption process can hinder teeth from emerging fully or correctly, leading to impaction.
Practically nothing is more uncomfortable than a toothache, especially from an impaction, but what is an impacted tooth?

How Can I Tell I Have an Impacted Tooth?

Identifying impacted teeth can be challenging since they may not always exhibit noticeable symptoms. However, some common signs that you or your child may have an impacted tooth include:

  • Bad breath
  • Difficulty opening the mouth
  • Gum or jawbone pain or tenderness
  • Prolonged headaches or jaw aches
  • Redness and swelling of the gums near the impacted tooth
  • Tenderness and swollen lymph nodes in the neck
  • Strange or unpleasant taste when biting down on or near the area
  • Visible gap where a tooth should be

How We Diagnose Impaction

To diagnose impacted teeth, our experienced dentists, Dr. Keaton or Dr. Allison, will thoroughly examine the area where a tooth hasn’t entirely or has only partially emerged. The impacted tooth may exert pressure on neighboring teeth, and signs of infection, such as redness, drainage, and tenderness, may be present in the surrounding gums. If impaction is suspected, we will take dental X-rays to confirm the condition and proceed with the most appropriate treatment options.

What are My Options for Treatment?

Treatment for impacted teeth depends on the individual case. In some instances, no treatment may be necessary if an impacted wisdom tooth is not causing any problems. The doctor may recommend braces if the impacted tooth is positioned towards the front of the smile, aiding in its proper alignment.

Over-the-counter pain relievers can temporarily relieve any discomfort associated with impacted teeth. Gargling with warm salt water or using over-the-counter mouthwashes can also help soothe the gums.

Typically, the most effective treatment for impacted wisdom teeth involves their removal, usually performed by an oral surgeon in the dentist’s office. Antibiotics may be prescribed in cases where infection is present before extraction.

Problems Associated with Impaction

Promptly addressing impacted teeth is crucial, as complications can arise if left untreated. Potential problems associated with impacted teeth include:

  • Abscesses in the tooth or gum area
  • Chronic mouth discomfort
  • Infections
  • Poor alignment of teeth (malocclusion)
  • Plaque accumulation between teeth and gums
  • Periodontal disease affecting neighboring teeth
  • Potential nerve damage if the impacted tooth is near the mandibular nerve in the jaw
Practically nothing is more uncomfortable than a toothache, especially from an impaction, but what is an impacted tooth?

Next Steps for Treatment

If you suspect that you or your child may have impacted teeth, promptly consult with qualified professionals like Dr. Keaton or Dr. Allison Tomlin. They will conduct a comprehensive evaluation and recommend the most appropriate action. Don’t let impacted teeth negatively impact your oral health—seek professional guidance and maintain a healthy smile for a lifetime!

Don’t Wait for an Emergency — Call Now! 

Mountain West Dental Specialists has everything you and your family need for a lifetime of happy and healthy smiles, and we can’t wait to share it with you! Dr. Keaton and Dr. Allison Tomlin are passionate about what they do, which goes for the whole team at our practice. You’ll know it from the moment you step into our office — Mountain West Dental Specialists is a smile solution for the entire family!