At Caring Family Dentistry, we know nothing is more unpleasant than a toothache. And a lot of the time, that toothache? It’s actually an impaction! But what is that? We’ve asked Dr. Sheffler, Dr. Teixeira, and Dr. Gittleman to give us the ins and outs of impacted teeth, so read on to learn all about this common dental headache below!
What Are Impacted Teeth?
First things first — what does it mean to have an impacted tooth? Simply put, an impacted tooth is when your tooth suffers from a dental condition where it fails to break through the gum line. This failure to break through the gum line tends to happen most frequently during infancy when the permanent teeth begin to replace the primary or baby teeth. Alternatively, it may occur when wisdom teeth, which is the familiar name for the third set of molars, try to emerge between the ages of 17 and 21. These are the most common periods to see an impacted tooth, and this is when most treatments for impacted teeth tend to take place.
Causes of Impacted Teeth
An impacted tooth gets stuck in gum tissue or bone for all sorts of different reasons. The complexity of dental development and the complexities of each individual’s smile lead to all kinds of other causes. Here are a few of the most common ones:
- Overcrowding: One common cause of tooth impaction is overcrowding. This usual suspect for all sorts of dental issues causes impaction because there isn’t enough space for the tooth to emerge. This overcrowding often happens with wisdom teeth since they’re the last to come in.
- Jaw Size and Structure: Sometimes, the jaw plays a big part in tooth impaction. If the jaw is too small for all the teeth, it can lead to crowding and impaction. Again, wisdom teeth, in particular, are vulnerable to impaction for this reason.
- Tooth Displacement: Teeth can encounter obstacles or other teeth during an eruption. This can cause them to become twisted, tilted, or displaced as they try to find their proper position. The disruption in their path can lead to impaction.
- Abnormal Growth Patterns: In some cases, abnormalities in tooth development can lead to impaction. Issues such as irregular tooth growth or irregular growth can prevent teeth from emerging fully or correctly, resulting in impaction.
Signs and Symptoms of Impacted Teeth
Identifying impacted teeth can be challenging since they may not always exhibit symptoms. However, some common signs that you or your child may be suffering from 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
- A strange or unpleasant taste when biting down on or near the area
- Visible gap where a tooth should be
Diagnosis of Impacted Teeth
To diagnose impacted teeth, Dr. Sheffler, Dr. Teixeira, or Dr. Gittleman will examine the area where a tooth hasn’t fully or 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 we suspect a case of impaction, we’ll take dental X-rays to confirm that they’re there, and then we can get started on your treatment options. Let’s talk about those now!
Treatment for impacted teeth depends on the specific situation. If an impacted wisdom tooth is not causing any problems, you may not need any treatment at all! Sometimes, if the impacted tooth is towards the front of your smile, we may recommend braces to help position the tooth correctly.
Over-the-counter pain relievers are great for providing temporary relief for any discomfort. Gargling with warm salt water or using over-the-counter mouthwashes can also help to soothe the gums.
Usually, though, the best and most direct treatment for impacted wisdom teeth is their removal, typically performed in the dentist’s office by an oral surgeon. In some cases, we may prescribe antibiotics before the extraction if an infection is present.
Possible Complications of an Impacted Tooth
Whatever the treatment, it’s imperative that you never ignore a potential case of an impacted tooth! Possible complications associated with impacted teeth include:
- Abscesses in the tooth or gum area
- Chronic mouth discomfort
- 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.
So What Now?
Suppose you suspect that you or your child may have impacted teeth. In that case, it’s important to promptly consult with a qualified professional like Dr. Sheffler, Dr. Teixeira, or Dr. Gittleman, who can thoroughly evaluate and recommend the most appropriate course of action. Don’t let impacted teeth impact your oral health—seek professional guidance and maintain a healthy smile for a lifetime!
Give us a Call to Schedule!
Whether you’re dealing with a challenge like an impacted tooth or just need a reliable family dentist in or around Concord, Caring Family Dentistry has you covered! We’re grateful to offer patients a modern, reliable, and compassionate dental headquarters where you can take care of everything from routine cleanings to complex restorative dental services! Call today to schedule your appointment!