Fix Impacted Teeth

In most people’s mouths, the baby teeth fall out and adult teeth take their place. If the adult teeth don’t erupt completely straight, orthodontic treatment can shift the teeth into the ideal position, relieving crowding and aligning the teeth to improve the bite. In some cases, however, the teeth may not ever erupt on their own, despite being fully developed in the jawbone. These teeth are called impacted teeth.

Most often, teeth become impacted because of crowding in the mouth. If a new tooth doesn’t have sufficient space to erupt into the mouth, it may remain stuck in the jaw, under the gum tissue. When the tooth entirely fails to erupt, this is known as a full impaction. When the tip of the tooth breaks through the bone to the gum line but doesn’t emerge completely, this is a partially impacted tooth. The teeth that are most likely to become impacted are the wisdom teeth. The reasons for wisdom teeth impaction include a lack of room in the jaw or the crooked or possibly dangerous angle or placement of the teeth. In some cases, wisdom teeth are growing completely sideways in the jaw, endangering the roots of the nearby molars. Upper canine teeth are also prone to being impacted. Impacted upper canines are often genetic in nature; if you have a family history of impacted upper canines, you are more likely to have this condition. Occasionally, both canines may be impacted, though usually it is only one of the upper canines. These may be impacted because they are the last of the upper teeth to emerge, and sometimes, once the incisors and the premolars have erupted, there isn’t sufficient room for the canines to also emerge, causing them to remain impacted.

In some cases, there are no symptoms of an impacted tooth, other than the absence of the tooth in the oral cavity. Upper canines are particularly important to the structure and support of the upper arch of the teeth, however, and they are also significant load bearers while chewing, due to their very long roots. This means that impacted upper canines can lead to mechanical and even aesthetic challenges and should be addressed. Impacted teeth may also lead to greater problems if they push into adjacent teeth, or if the teeth below the gums decay. This can lead to infection, gum disease, or even nerve damage. If you have pain and tenderness in the jaw, a prolonged headache or ache in the jaw, swelling of the gums or lymph nodes, a foul taste in the mouth, and visible gaps in the teeth, you may have a problematically impacted tooth that should be assessed and treated.

While it is impossible to prevent teeth from being impacted, it is possible to treat impacted teeth. When wisdom teeth are impacted, the preferred treatment is to remove the teeth. When upper canines are impacted, it may be preferable to move the teeth into the ideal position with a combination of oral surgery and orthodontia. Dental x-rays can determine the location and presence of an impacted tooth, and treatment is planned in conjunction with an orthodontist.

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