An impacted tooth is a tooth that doesn’t emerge through the gums all the way. Impacted teeth commonly happen with wisdom teeth, the third molars that are the last to erupt in the mouth, but an impacted tooth could be any tooth in the mouth.
Children may have impacted teeth when they lose their baby teeth and are waiting for a permanent tooth to erupt, but the adult tooth doesn’t make it in all the way . Although experts aren’t sure why impacted teeth happen, we do know that they have certain health risks when left untreated.
Since impacted teeth may only partially come through the gum tissue, a tooth infection can result . What happens is that the space left by the baby tooth can be a trap for food particles and bacteria, which can accumulate and result in a tooth infection when not properly cleaned.
However, wisdom teeth that get stuck in the gum tissue can also get infected because they are difficult to fully clean with both brushing and flossing. This can lead to either a tooth or gum infection that can progress if not professionally treated and the root cause (the impacted tooth) dealt with.
Impacted wisdom teeth also have the potential to lead to crooked or crowded teeth in the oral cavity . This is because when the tooth doesn’t have enough room to erupt through the gum tissue, or is pushing sideways against the other teeth, it can lead to misalignment problems.
Crooked and crowded teeth are more difficult to brush and floss than straight teeth and can increase your risk for tooth decay and gum disease, resulting in further complications from an impacted tooth.
Tooth Root or Bone Damage
If you have an impacted tooth, the tooth can also cause a cyst to form near the tooth. This cyst could lead to damage to your tooth roots, either to the impacted tooth or the nearby teeth .
The cyst could also harm the bone that helps anchor your teeth in placed, called alveolar bone. Why does this happen? Essentially, if the impacted tooth is not where it is supposed to be, it can touch the neighboring teeth and impact the health of those tooth roots and surrounding bone. If left to progress, these cysts can lead to an infection or even the need for jaw surgery.
How Do You Know If Your Wisdom Teeth Are Impacted?
While sometimes your dentist can see that a tooth has only partially erupted through the gum tissue with a physical exam, the best way to know for sure if your wisdom teeth are impacted, or if your child has a permanent tooth that’s impacted, is by getting x-rays.
X-rays will clearly show a tooth’s position and your dentist can determine the best method of treatment for moving forward to help prevent health risks from the impacted tooth.
If you’re experiencing symptoms of an impacted tooth, such as red, swollen gum tissue, pain or swelling in your jaw, or a bad taste in your mouth that doesn’t go away, it’s time to follow up with your dentist to see if an impacted tooth could be the culprit!