Tooth Impaction - Symptoms and Treatments

When a tooth fails to break through the gums or does not erupt properly, it is considered to be impacted. The teeth start to erupt and break through the gums when patients are infants or sometime during their first year life. The tooth eruption process occurs again when the primary teeth are replaced with the secondary teeth.

A tooth which does not erupt properly, or partially erupts is considered impacted. The wisdom teeth are the most common teeth to be impacted. They may also be called the third molars. Wisdom teeth are typically the last teeth to erupt. They usually come in when the patient is in their late teens or early twenties.

A tooth can get stuck in gum tissue or bone for various reasons. The mouth may already be overcrowded and not have adequate room for the new tooth. Patients with a smaller jaw typically have insufficient room for wisdom teeth. It is also possible for impacted teeth to come in at the wrong angle, be twisted, tilted, or have other issues during their development.

As previously mentioned, it is quite common for the wisdom teeth to be impacted. In some cases, they do not cause any problems, however, they may push against the adjacent teeth. This can cause issues such as misalignment and overcrowding. If a tooth is partially emerged, it is more likely to accumulate food, plaque, and other debris. This can cause issues such as inflammation, bad breath, and discomfort. An untreated impacted tooth can cause issues such as infection, damage to the adjacent teeth, or even bone loss.

While it is possible that patients may not have any symptoms, below are symptoms commonly associated with an impacted tooth:

* Foul taste or bad breath
* Difficulty opening the mouth
* Jaw or gum pain
* Head or jaw aches
* Gums which are red or swollen
* Swollen lymph nodes
* Visible gap where the tooth should be

Patients who suspect they have an impacted tooth should follow up with their dentist right away. The dentist will complete an examination, looking for swollen tissue near the impacted tooth. The impacted tooth may also be pressing up against the adjacent teeth, resulting in shifting or crowding.

Gum tissue can start to show signs of infection such as drainage, redness, and discomfort. It is possible for the gums to swell over an impacted wisdom tooth and then drain, giving patients the impression the tooth erupted and then retracted back into the mouth. X-rays are commonly used to diagnose an impacted tooth. This also give the dentist insight into the specific position of the impacted tooth and whether it is affecting the surrounding teeth.


Impacted wisdom teeth which do not cause any symptoms may not need to be removed. The tooth will likely be monitored to ensure it does not cause any issues in the future. If an impacted tooth is located in the front of the mouth, the dental professional may use braces to direct it into the desired location.

An over-the-counter pain reliever can be used to temporarily relieve pain associated with an impacted tooth. A warm saltwater rinse which contains ½ teaspoon of salt and one cup of filtered water may also help. Some patients also find relief when using a gentle mouthwash.

The most common treatment for an impacted wisdom tooth is extraction. In cases of infection, antibiotics may be prescribed before or after the tooth is removed. An impacted tooth can result in serious pain, while other patients may not have any symptoms. When an impacted tooth is removed before any symptoms are present, the treatment is usually highly successful.

It is recommended that patients have impacted wisdom teeth removed before the roots are fully developed. This typically occurs when patients are in their early twenties. Removal prior to the tooth being fully developed helps ensure the extraction procedure and healing process are both successful. As the roots grow and mature, it increases the risk for issues and complications.

If You Don_t Remove Impacted Teeth