When was the last time you stopped to consider how important your teeth are? They let you chew, smile, and talk properly. They even give your face its shape.
It’s not exactly a “how’s the weather” topic of conversation. So, it’s easy to take your trusty teeth for granted.
One such problem is an impacted tooth—usually wisdom teeth. Since they occur around the ages of 17 to 21, they can be very distressing. At these ages, an impacted tooth could land you in very painful and embarrassing situations.
Worried you might have one? Worry less because this article gives you the whats, whys, whens, and hows of tooth impaction. So follow along!
What Is an Impacted Tooth?
Impacted teeth are teeth that get trapped in your gums or jawbone.
It can be partially impacted where the tooth breaks through the gum line (erupts) but gets blocked. It can also be fully trapped under gum tissue or in the jaw bone.
Soft Tissue Impaction vs Hard Tissue Impaction
Soft tissue impaction is when the tooth has grown past the bone but hasn’t erupted through the gums. Hard tissue impaction or bony impaction means the teeth are still stuck in the jawbone.
Which Teeth Are Usually Impacted?
Teeth impactions most commonly happen with the wisdom tooth. Also known as the third molars, they usually come in during your late teens or early adulthood. Having outlived their necessity, they’re considered to have no real use.
Wisdom teeth come in when your jaw has usually stopped growing. They can get impacted when there’s not enough room to erupt normally.
Hence, people with smaller jaws are more susceptible. Of course, many people can grow their wisdom teeth without impactions.
Although it’s most common with wisdom teeth, impaction can happen to any of your teeth. The second most common is the impaction of the maxillary canines (eyeteeth).
Complications with children still growing their permanent teeth can also cause impactions. Hence, it’s recommended for children to get an orthodontic evaluation by seven years old.
What Are the Four Types of Teeth Impaction?
The different types of impacted teeth are dependent on the position they grow in.
1. Mesial Impaction
Mesial impaction is the most common type of teeth impaction. This is when the tooth angles towards the front of the mouth.
2. Distal Impaction
The rarest type of impaction. This happens when the tooth angles towards the back of the mouth.
3. Vertical Impaction
This is when the tooth is in the correct position for an eruption but remains below the gums. Tooth extraction isn’t necessary unless it causes pain or overcrowding.
4. Horizontal Impaction
A full impaction where the tooth is lying horizontally on its side. This often causes tooth pain since the tooth’s growth puts pressure on the one beside it.
What Causes an Impacted Tooth?
The most general cause of an impacted tooth is lack of space. This could be a simple case of genetics for people born with small jaws. Although, it can also be a result of previous orthodontic treatments like early removal of baby teeth.
Another cause of teeth impaction is wrong positioning. As mentioned in the types of teeth impaction, different angles of growth can prevent teeth from erupting properly.
When a child’s baby tooth doesn’t fall out properly, it can also block the growing permanent tooth.
What Are the Symptoms?
If you suspect you have teeth impaction, look out for these symptoms:
- Pain or tenderness in your gums or jaw
- Gum inflammation or redness
- Bleeding gums
- Bad breath
- Difficulty moving your jaw
- A bad taste in your mouth
- Tooth decay
- Teeth misalignment
These symptoms may appear anywhere from a few days and could last months. They can be continuous or come and go over a longer period. In some cases, however, you might not experience any symptoms.
When Should You See a Doctor?
If you experience some—or all—of the symptoms mentioned above, visit a dentist immediately. Even if it’s not a case of tooth impaction, you still need to get that checked. If the impaction is not already visible, a dental X-ray can provide the diagnosis.
A regular dental checkup is also recommended since you might not have symptoms. A standard rule of thumb is to visit the dentist every six months. Of course, this can vary depending on the state of your oral health.
Impacted Tooth Treatment
Once you get your diagnosis, you can discuss various treatments with your dentist. Treatment may involve:
This is the preferred treatment for the impaction of more functional teeth, as the canines. However, due to their physical and cosmetic functions, an extraction might cause more problems.
The teeth can be surgically exposed and forced to erupt. Then, they can align them with braces or brackets after.
Like any surgery, tooth extraction comes with risks. However, it proves necessary in many scenarios.
If the eruption attempt fails, your dentist, orthodontist, or maxillofacial surgeon might turn to tooth extraction. In this case, they remove the impacted tooth and replace it with a dental implant or dental bridge.
Baby or adult teeth are also extracted if they block another tooth from growing.
The most common application of extraction surgery is for wisdom teeth. If they’re causing pain or damage, extraction isn’t as much of a big deal.
Of course, only professionals can administer these treatments. From check-ups to wisdom teeth removal, only count on the qualified.
Why Should You Not Ignore an Impacted Tooth?
First off, it’s not exactly easy to ignore if you have the symptoms. The pain will surely catch your attention.
Apart from pain, since impacted teeth are also difficult to clean, you risk plaque buildup. This could lead to bacterial infection. The pressure exerted on the rest of your teeth can also lead to alignment issues.
All of these can accumulate into serious complications such as:
- Tooth decay
- Gum disease
- Damage to other teeth
- Jaw and teeth misalignment
- Cysts (can damage other teeth, roots, and bone)
Not seeking treatment for teeth impactions will only lead to worse issues. Not only would you prolong your agony, but you’re also setting yourself up for more expensive treatment.
Don’t Let Teeth Impaction Impact Your Life!
Your teeth play a huge role in your day-to-day life. When they’re just there doing the chewing, it’s easy to forget their importance. When they do cause problems, an impacted tooth has the potential to derail your life.
Remember, even the hardest part of your body needs a bit of TLC.
Do you know what else needs your care and attention? Your health! Check out the rest of our guides to keep learning and stay healthy!