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Section Questions and Answers

Impacted Teeth

  1. What is an impacted tooth?
  2. What causes a tooth to become impacted?
  3. Which teeth are most likely to become impacted?
  4. What signs and symptoms are associated with an impacted tooth?
  5. What is the treatment for an impacted wisdom tooth?
  6. What is the treatment for an impacted canine or eye-tooth?

 
1. What is an impacted tooth?

  • An impacted tooth is one that is prevented from growing (erupting) into its correct or normal position. It is usually wedged against another tooth below the gum.

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2. What causes a tooth to become impacted?

  • There a many factors that influence the growth pattern of a tooth:
    • The size of the jaw may be too small to allow the tooth to erupt into its correct position.
    • Neighbouring teeth that are out of their normal position, may obstruct the growth path of a tooth, and cause it to become impacted.
    • A layer of bone or a hard cover of gum over the tooth, can also affect the growth process.
    • A tooth may become impacted if it grows in an abnormal direction and position.

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3. Which teeth are most likely to become impacted?

Click to enlarge
Impacted tooth
lying horizontally
Click to enlarge
Impacted lower
wisdom teeth

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4. What signs and symptoms are associated with an impacted tooth?

  • The signs and symptoms of an impacted tooth are:
    • Severe pain can be caused by the impacted tooth exerting pressure on other teeth, and on nerves around it.
    • A partially erupted wisdom tooth may have a flap of gum over it.
    • Food can become trapped between the tooth and the gum. This can cause a severe infection around the tooth.
    • This is called a peri-coronitis, and it can be very painful.
    • It may be painful to open your mouth or to chew.
    • Temporary relief can be provided by taking an analgesic, and possibly an antibiotic.
    • There may be no symptoms from a dormant impacted tooth for many years.
    • A deeply impacted tooth is not visible except on X-ray.

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5. What is the treatment for an impacted wisdom tooth?

  • When an impacted tooth causes pain, or adversely affects the tooth it has impacted against, it will usually be extracted:
    • The tooth blocking the way of the wisdom tooth can be extracted, thereby creating space for the impacted tooth to grow into.
    • When a wisdom tooth is impacted, the opposing wisdom tooth in the other jaw may not be.
    • The normal wisdom tooth will continue to grow after reaching its normal position if there is no opposite tooth for it to chew against. This is termed over-eruption.
    • In these circumstances it may be wise to extract this tooth before it reaches the gum in the opposite jaw.

Click to enlarge
Over erupted upper tooth

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6. What is the treatment for an impacted eye-tooth (canine)?

  • Since eye-teeth are very important for dental aesthetics and facial appearance, techniques have been developed to correct their positions.
    • The gum is cut open to expose the tooth.
    • The orthodontist attaches a bracket to the tooth, and begins the process of moving it into position with the use of wires, elastics and often the extraction of teeth.
    • These techniques are generally successful but they do take time.

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