Impacted Teeth: Our Oral Surgeons Answer Your Top Questions

Do you have impacted teeth?

When a tooth is trapped in the jawbone or gum tissue and fails to erupt, it is said to be impacted. Dental impaction can lead to a range of complications, including issues with tooth alignment, damage to adjacent teeth, gum disease and infection.

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Here, Dr. Maxfield and Dr. Partridge answer some of the most common questions we hear from our patients about impacted teeth.

Why Do Teeth Become Impacted?

A tooth can become impacted for a number of reasons.

Overcrowding is frequently to blame. Either the jaw is too small to accommodate the tooth or the other teeth are taking up too much space for the tooth to erupt. Dental impaction can also occur when a tooth comes in at an abnormal angle. In other cases, excessive gum tissue or dense overlying bone can cause impaction.

Which Teeth Most Commonly Become Impacted?

The third molars (commonly known as the wisdom teeth) are most often affected by dental impaction. In fact, according to the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (AAOMS), 9 out of every 10 people have at least one impacted wisdom tooth.

The upper canines, or maxillary cuspids, are the second-most common impacted teeth. With the incisors and premolars, however, impaction is rare.

What Are the Symptoms of Impacted Teeth?

A tooth that is fully impacted sometimes causes no symptoms at all. In many cases, the dental impaction is discovered only after taking X-rays.

With a partial impaction, patients may experience pain or tenderness in the gums or jawbone. Redness and swelling of the gum tissue can also be expected. For some, impacted teeth can cause bad breath, an unpleasant taste when biting down and difficulty opening the mouth.

When impaction is left untreated, patients may also have prolonged jaw pain and headaches.

How Is Dental Impaction Treated?

We typically remove impacted wisdom teeth. In fact, most oral surgeons and dental professionals consider this the treatment of choice, as the third molars are not necessary for function and often cause a myriad of other problems in the mouth.

When dental impaction affects the canines, however, we rarely consider extraction. These teeth are critical for a properly aligned bite and balanced facial appearance. So in most cases, we work with orthodontists to help guide the canines so that they will erupt on their own.

This can be accomplished with oral surgery to expose the impacted teeth and attach orthodontic brackets. The brackets, along with flexible bands exerting light pressure, work to gently and gradually guide the canines downward into the proper position.

Treating dental impaction requires skill and experience. The professional team at Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery of Utah, serving the greater Salt Lake City area, has extensive expertise with impacted wisdom teeth and canines as well as a full range of oral surgery procedures. Schedule an appointment at one of our three convenient offices today to discuss your impacted teeth.