An Impacted Tooth


An impacted tooth occurs when there is not enough room for the tooth to erupt freely into the mouth. Many times, this occurs with third molars (wisdom teeth). Wisdom teeth begin erupting from 17-21 years of age, and can become impacted if they do not have enough room to erupt into the mouth freely. They may erupt into the mouth sideways towards the cheek or tongue, or may be tilted into the jaw bone or second molar causing it to be impacted. These teeth may or may not be painful depending upon the situation.

There are different classifications of impacted teeth, especially wisdom teeth. These include; soft tissue impaction, partial bony impaction, and full bony impaction. With a soft tissue impaction, if the tooth is pressing on the gum tissue hard and the tissue swells, this can cause pain; or if there is a flap of tissue that is loose over the tooth, you may get food particles and bacteria underneath this tissue and an infection may occur. This is referred to as a pericoronitis (i.e., an infection around the crown of the tooth). If left untreated, the infection may spread to the throat and neck. A partial bony impaction is when the tooth's crown is partially surrounded be bone and will not let the tooth erupt freely. A full bony impaction is when the tooth is completely surrounded by bone and will not allow the tooth to erupt. Some of these can be painless and unnoticeable, while others can be painful.

An impacted tooth can get and cause cavities. The impacted tooth can also press into the adjacent molar leading to a cavity, gum disease, and tooth movement. It may also change your bite. Occasionally an impacted tooth may have a cyst or other more dangerous growth around it. You may need to be referred to an oral surgeon to remove these teeth.


Several symptoms of an impacted tooth include; gum swelling toward the back of the mouth, difficulty opening your mouth and/or associated pain; halitosis, a bad taste in your mouth, and pain upon biting or eating. Pain may last for several days, or may reoccur weeks or months afterwards.


Your dentist will perform on examination of the area involved and take any necessary dental X-rays. These will show where and how and where the tooth is impacted.


When the tooth is extracted, the symptoms usually disappear.


You cannot prevent an impacted tooth, but you can perform good oral hygiene to prevent cavities on the tooth itself it is partially erupted into the mouth.


If you have minor irritation of an impacted wisdom tooth, you can try rinsing with warm salt water, i.e., -1 teaspoon of table salt added to 8 ounces of water. You may also try over-the-counter pain relievers.

If this impacted tooth continues to generate pain, becomes infected, or hampers other tooth, then it can be removed. This is usually a rather simple procedure that takes between 5-30 minutes, depending on the location of the tooth and the severity of the impaction. Individuals are often referred to an oral surgeon for this procedure, and they can use several types of anaesthesia and sedation techniques to make sure that you are comfortable. Make sure you bring someone with you to drive you home.

Following the surgery, you have some difficulty eating certain foods and your jaw and cheeks may be swollen. The oral surgeon will give you post-operative instructions both orally and written. Post-operative complications do occur, but are rather rare.

Your wisdom teeth may also be extracted to prevent future problems. Some individuals have all four wisdom teeth taken out to make sure to prevent associated problems at a future date. If your wisdom teeth are removed before the age of 21 years, there may be less complications and better bone and gum healing.

Call a Professional:

If you are experiencing posterior tooth pain, contact your dentist immediately. You dentist will perform a complete oral examination to see just what the cause of the pain is, and will treat the pain. Make sure that you visit your dentist for regular check-up, as the dentist will make sure to keep track of your wisdom teeth, as well as any other problems with your mouth. Special X-rays may be required to evaluate your wisdom teeth.


After surgery, your prognosis will be excellent.