An impacted tooth can result in discomfort or infection for some; while some people can go through life without experiencing any problems with teeth that never properly erupted. The teeth most likely to be impacted are third molars (wisdom teeth). Most of us have four; these are the last teeth to come in and one of the reasons they may have difficulty erupting is due to lack of jaw space. Regular visits with the dentist will allow for vigilance in watching for signs that impacted teeth require extraction.
What does impacted mean?
A tooth can be totally beneath the gum’s surface or can be partially erupted and is still considered an impacted tooth. The angle in which the tooth lies can be seen on a dental x-ray, and may be an indicator of potential problems with leaving the tooth in place. This is something your dentist will monitor.
A small jaw or larger teeth can make impaction of teeth a reality. Concerns for damage to neighboring teeth may lead to the need for extraction.
For some, there will be symptoms that an impacted tooth requires attention … bleeding or swollen gums; chronic bad breath; discomfort; a swollen jaw; headaches or jaw pain … any or all of these symptoms may be present. The area may be difficult to keep clean as food may be easily trapped; this leads to the potential for infection, decay, and/or gum disease.
If extraction is indicated, your dentist will determine whether it will be a simple extraction. A fully impacted third molar requires oral surgery to remove. A simple extraction can be performed with a local anesthetic.
Your dentist may advise you that keeping a watchful eye is your best option to treat an impacted tooth. If there are no problems, an impacted tooth may be left in place. This is not to say that eventually this tooth may create problems; that can be dealt with if and when the time comes.
In the meantime, the best way to maintain your dental health involves brushing at least twice every day with a fluoridated toothpaste; floss daily making sure to reach the areas surrounding impacted teeth; and see your dentist every six months for cleaning and exam. Regular monitoring of an impacted tooth is important to prevent problems like infection and/or damage to adjacent teeth.
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