A tooth impaction occurs when the tooth does not erupt in its proper position. The cause of an impacted tooth is typically overcrowding, so the tooth is unable to come through the soft tissue of the gum line – either fully or partially. If the tooth comes partially through, this is known as a partially-impacted tooth. Each type can cause symptoms, but they may also be symptomless.
While children may experience impacted teeth when they are losing their baby teeth, a wisdom tooth impaction is common for an adult tooth. Impacted tooth symptoms include the following:
- Redness, pain and swelling: The most common types of impaction cause pain at the eruption site. As the tooth tries to come through the soft tissue of the gum there can be a considerable amount of pain. Sometimes you will notice gum bleeding, too.
- Difficulty chewing: As the teeth have no space to erupt, they will typically do so at an unusual angle. If your wisdom teeth erupt at an angle then you may experience pain and uncomfortable feelings in the mouth while chewing.
- Bad breath: The crowding and angles of the impacted tooth provide an ideal place for bacteria to hide, causing bad breath. Bad breath is a key symptom of an impacted tooth, and bacteria may lead to further issues such as gum disease and tooth decay.
Causes of tooth impaction can be difficult to determine, but they include dental trauma early in life, baby teeth that do not fall out, having more teeth than usual, and abnormal tooth growth. Many times the cause is impossible to predict or the tooth impaction has no known cause.
Adults may have impacted teeth on the canines but the most common tooth impaction is on the wisdom teeth, which come in later in life. We deal with a wide range of dental issues in our Brighton and Hove-based clinic, so please feel free to get in touch to book an appointment.
What are the Types of Impacted Tooth?
The type of impaction depends on the tooth and the position it is erupting or attempting to erupt. Dentists will assess the type and determine the best treatment option. Common types of impactions on the wisdom tooth include the following:
- Horizontal impactions: This is possibly the most tricky type of impacted tooth. Horizontal impactions will be lying on their side within the gum line, which can cause considerable pain if it starts to erupt – it will crowd out nearby teeth.
- Vertical impactions: Vertical impactions are unusual, as the tooth is in its proper position. However, the tooth is too close to another tooth and unable to erupt. Many dentists will simply monitor a vertical impaction that is not causing any other issues.
- Mesial impactions: Mesial means front, so mesial impactions are when the wisdom tooth erupts pointing outwards, angled towards the front of the mouth. Some dentists call mesial impaction an ‘angular’ impaction. Mesial impactions are a common type.
- Distal impactions: Distal impactions are a partial or full impaction that is the opposite type of a mesial, meaning the tooth is facing backwards from the mouth, towards the throat.
Presuming it is a wisdom tooth that is affected, a dentist will be able to say what type of wisdom tooth impaction you have. If you think you have symptoms you will need to see a dentist, who will perform an examination and X-rays. Doing this will help to determine the appropriate treatment.
What are the Treatment Options for Impacted Teeth?
Wisdom teeth impaction is a common problem. However, they often do not require treatment, because even if the tooth is impacted there is no benefit to surgically removing it if it is not causing problems. Wisdom teeth are not visible, so the appearance of the tooth is of no concern.
Symptoms may not persist and subside in an adult tooth, which should be fully complete by around 25 years old. If symptoms persist, impacted tooth treatments include the following:
- Wait and see: Although most people’s wisdom teeth come in by age 25, it can take longer. Additionally, if a tooth is in the right position – whether impacted or not – you may get a full eruption over time, so there is no point to removing a tooth with no issues.
- Over-the-counter medications: Pain relief from simple medicines such as ibuprofen and paracetamol can provide short term treatment. If you are waiting to have your wisdom tooth removed then you can use these medications as you recover, too.
- Wisdom tooth removal: Orthodontic treatment to remove the tooth or teeth is a common option if symptoms do not disappear. Tooth extraction is a sometimes awkward or painful process, but the pain of not removing them may be much worse.
- Braces and brackets: If you are a teenager or in your early 20’s you may benefit from braces, which can help straighten your teeth and allow unerupted wisdom teeth to come in without blockage. Braces help make room for partially-erupted teeth too.
Some types of impacted teeth, such as horizontal impactions or rare cases where many teeth are impacted in the mouth, may require more extensive oral and maxillofacial surgery. This straightens the teeth and adjusts the shape of the jaw and face – so every tooth has room.
Although surgery and wisdom tooth removal can seem daunting, most wisdom tooth extractions only require a local anaesthetic and will not cause pain. Discomfort and numbness are all you will feel, and it is normal to have some slight soreness after extraction for a few days.
Find Treatment for an Impacted Tooth
Impacted teeth and the potential treatment options can be scary for some people, which is why we offer many treatments for nervous patients at our advanced clinic. We specialise in finding the most suitable treatment for all kinds of dental issues, which we can deliver in a supportive and comfortable environment.
With excellent cosmetic and restorative treatments available we are sure that treatment of any issue will be to the highest standard. You will see our staff are helpful, friendly and supportive once you visit us to learn more. You can book an appointment in the Brighton and Hove area by getting in touch with us today.
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