What Is an Impacted Tooth?

Wisdom teeth may not make you wise, but they can indeed be painful for some people. That is when they become impacted. What is an impacted tooth?

Wisdom teeth may not make you wise, but they can indeed be painful for some people. That is when they become impacted. What is an impacted tooth?

According to research, around 24% of people globally suffer from impacted teeth. Your wisdom tooth can be impacted when it cannot grow properly. However, that doesn’t mean you always have to go through a painful experience.

This article will learn all about impacted teeth — their causes, symptoms, and treatment options. By the end, you would have a clear understanding of the topic to make an informed health decision.

What are impacted teeth?

Our last set of wisdom teeth or third molars can emerge well beyond adulthood. They are placed at the end of the jaw after the rows of teeth and can develop till you are 40.

However, the third molar does not always get enough room to develop well. It can emerge partially or even stay entirely inside the gums. In such cases, we say your wisdom tooth is impacted.

There are two types of impacted teeth:

  • Soft tissue impacted wisdom tooth: It means your third molar has emerged partially, but the rest is under the gums.
  • Bony impact: Your wisdom tooth is completely submerged in the jaw bone.

An impacted tooth can grow at any angle and push against your gums and other teeth. It can also lie at 180-degrees, known as a horizontal impacted wisdom tooth.

Signs and symptoms of an impacted tooth

Impacted teeth may or may not cause complications. For some people, an impacted tooth stays without creating any pain or damaging other teeth or jawbone. However, for others, an impacted tooth can get infected or create dental issues.

If that happens, you can experience symptoms like:

  • Pain or swelling in your gums and jaw
  • Sensitive or bleeding gums
  • Unsavory taste in your mouth
  • Stinky breath

Your dentist may suggest removing the problematic tooth to ease your symptoms and prevent further damage.

Causes of an impacted tooth

The next thing people enquire after what is an impacted tooth is its causes.

Your wisdom teeth can turn impacted when they can’t grow normally due to a shortage of space. You can also get impacted teeth when your molars shoot out at the wrong angles.

Certain risk factors may increase your chances of getting an impacted tooth, like:

  • An overcrowded jaw
  • Genetics
  • Lack of orthodontic treatment
  • Your age (17 – 40 years)

Do impacted teeth hurt?

Impacted third molars don’t always hurt or cause problems. Therefore, your impacted tooth can stay as it is without causing pain.

However, for others, the experience can be quite painful. In addition, food particles may get stuck on your wisdom teeth as they are difficult to clean. That can lead to a range of gum problems and complications. Your impacted teeth can also hurt when they push against other teeth or gums.

Some of the complications of an impacted tooth are:

  • Cavities: Tiny holes develop on your decaying molars.
  • Tooth abscess: Infected teeth develop pockets of pus.
  • Gum disease: Improper cleaning leads to periodontal diseases like pericoronitis.
  • Malocclusion: Bite affected due to nonaligned teeth.
  • Crooked teeth due to crowding: Molars push against other teeth, making them crooked
  • Cysts: Cysts filled with fluid can form on your jawbone in the space of your wisdom teeth.
  • Adsorption of bone or adjacent teeth: Loss of bone or parts of teeth adjacent to impacted molars.
Treatment options for impacted teeth

Treatment options for impacted teeth

Your dentist will choose the right treatment option based on your circumstances. You may not even need a tooth extraction if you do not have any pain or symptoms.

However, for problematic cases, your doctor can try the following:

For pain management

You may receive over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen to reduce pain and swelling in your gums. Other helpful ways to relieve pain are:

  • Ice packs
  • Rinsing the mouth with saltwater
  • Numbing dental gels
  • Home remedies like clove oil, peppermint mouthwash, and turmeric

Oral surgery

Oral surgery is a proven way to get rid of your impacted teeth. Your dentist will use anesthesia for the outpatient procedure that lasts a maximum of one hour. You will get a stitch and have to follow your dentist’s instructions till you heal.

Surgery is a safe treatment, but some people worry about complications like impacted wisdom teeth removal nerve damage. However, they are very rare.

What type of dentist removes impacted wisdom teeth?

You can go to an oral surgeon or maxillofacial surgeon to remove your impacted teeth.

Metallic braces

Metallic braces can help you get back your impacted teeth to the right position in some cases. Your orthodontist will make an incision in your gum and expose your wisdom tooth. You will get your braces that pull your wisdom tooth to its right place.

Clear braces like Invisalign

Clear braces like Invisalign can help you realign your impacted teeth in certain cases. Your dentist will use special techniques and metal attachments to put on the braces and straighten your wisdom tooth.

Damaged fillings

Regular dental filling can treat any cavities or loss of teeth. However, it’s not a good choice to refill decaying impacted teeth.

Final thoughts

Your wisdom teeth can get trapped in or under your gums and become impacted. The condition can be painful for some people and lead to dental complications. Your dentists will suggest the right treatment method based on your condition that might include wisdom tooth removal.

We have experienced dentists at Image Dental to treat your impacted tooth and help you live pain-free. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

Stephen Nozaki, DDS, MPH, DIDIA

Dr. Stephen Nozaki is the owner and lead dentist at Image Dental in Stockton. He is a dedicated professional born and raised in California's Central Valley. With a commitment to his community, he brings advanced dental techniques learned from extensive education and continuous training from around the world. A third-generation Japanese American, Dr. Nozaki has a rich background that includes international living and a deep passion for both dentistry and outdoor activities. His focus in dentistry aligns with his passion for cosmetics and dental implants.