Increase your dental dictionary: Impacted Tooth

Have you ever been told by your dentist that you have an impacted tooth? If so, it was most likely in reference to a wisdom tooth, known as a third molar, although other teeth can be impacted as well. Some patients know they have impacted teeth because they have pain, while other patients may not have symptoms and won’t know about these teeth until a dentist diagnoses them on a routine x-ray.

What is an impacted tooth?

Simply put, an impacted tooth is a tooth that is unable to erupt from the gum. Usually, a tooth is unable to erupt because there is not enough space, which is why you might be referred to an oral surgeon to have those teeth extracted. The pain you may feel from these impacted teeth is typically caused by the teeth attempting to erupt.

Why was I told my tooth is impacted? I can see it coming through the gum.

There are different levels of impacted teeth. You could have fully impacted teeth, meaning they are completely under the gum with no exposure. You might also have partially impacted teeth, meaning they have erupted somewhat but not completely. Sometimes these partially erupted teeth are angled towards and pushing on the teeth in front of them, which can cause pain and possibly damage to those teeth. In other cases, these teeth may be erupting straight but are not able to erupt to the same height as your other teeth. These teeth can be very hard to brush and are susceptible to cavities.

Do my impacted teeth need to be removed?

One of the many reasons to see your general dentist for regular checkups is that he or she will monitor impacted teeth. Especially in the case of wisdom teeth, your dentist or orthodontist may want you to get impacted teeth removed before those teeth develop symptoms. Sometimes, they may advise leaving an impacted tooth in place and only removing it if it becomes symptomatic.

You may think that everyone has wisdom teeth removed when they are younger, but oral surgeons treat impacted wisdom teeth in adults of all ages.