Impacted teeth are teeth that have failed to fully emerge through the gum. The teeth may only slightly appear, or they may not appear at all. The wisdom teeth are most likely to become impacted.
There are a few factors that contribute to impacted teeth. One is lack of space due to other teeth growing nearby. This is medically known as crowding. Another tooth may appear over the same position and prevent the impacted tooth from appearing.
Ankylosis may also occur. In this condition, the roots of the tooth fuse with the jawbone. The tooth then becomes immobile and remains in its present position, whether it is fully or partially impacted.
Impacted teeth must nearly always be extracted. If the tooth or teeth are left impacted, then the roots will continue to grow. The longer the tooth is left before extraction, the longer the roots continue to grow. This causes problems, because the roots can grow around nerves in the face.
Other possible problems associated with teeth that are not extracted include the erosion of the roots of other nearby teeth. Impacted teeth can also cause crowding of the other teeth in the mouth. This may affect the natural line of a person’s smile.
Impacted teeth can also cause decay. Food may become trapped in the gum line and left to deteriorate. There may be difficulty in brushing or flossing in the area with the impacted teeth. In turn, this can eventually cause infection in the gum area, bad breath and pain. There are also some less common symptoms of impacted teeth, including headaches, swollen lymph nodes in the neck area and pain when opening the mouth.
Extraction of the teeth is a relatively problem-free procedure. The extractions are commonly performed on young adults and are usually painless. Local anesthetic is applied and forceps extract the tooth or teeth. The procedure may be more complicated in older people. Cutting of the gums may be required to reveal the tooth, and parts of the jawbone may also need to be removed.
Once the extraction is complete, stitches may be necessary to help the cuts in the gums heal. After the extraction, the gums should heal with no problems. If problems do occur, they are likely to be infections, numbness or irritation to the nerves. A condition called dry socket may also occur. This happens when blood does not clot properly in the empty socket, and it takes longer to heal. Any pain can be treated with analgesic medication.