Impacted teeth occur when the teeth aren’t able to grow into the mouth on their own; either something is obstructing their movement – such as the baby teeth not falling out – or there is not enough room for all the teeth. This causes the teeth to get stuck, sometimes barely pushing out from the gumline, or not visible at all under the gums.
Some people may have several impacted teeth, while others have only one. This depends on the causes of impacted teeth and how the teeth grow in. Alternatively, some people have impacted baby teeth, but their adult teeth grow in properly, or vice versa. It all depends…everyone is unique!
While an impacted teeth may not cause pain or discomfort – you may not even know it’s there – it’s important to monitor it and, in some cases, to treat it. This can mean pulling it into position, or extracting it.
If left, impacted teeth can cause other dental problems, including damaging the roots of adjacent teeth or even cyst formation.
Impacted Baby Teeth
When a baby tooth won’t fall out on its own, it may become submerged in the gum line or impacted and require removal. It is rare, but in certain cases, these teeth can stubbornly refuse to fall out. This affects the adult teeth, which have no room to grow in properly and then can either get impacted themselves or grow in at a difficult angle.
An x-ray will help determine whether the baby teeth are affecting growth of the adult teeth; and in some cases, baby teeth will be removed early to leave room for the adult teeth. This is one of the reasons why early orthodontic intervention is advised.
The American Association of Orthodontists recommends children see an orthodontist by age 7.
Common Causes of Impacted Teeth:
- The tooth has twisted or grown at an angle that won’t fit, so it stops pushing through
- Other teeth in the mouth have overcrowded the space for that tooth to grow in
- The jaw is too small
- The tooth is too big to fit in the space where it needs to grow
- Genetic factors affecting the teeth or jaw
- Accidental damage to the baby tooth, which affects the adult tooth beneath, causing the adult tooth to become impacted
The causes of impacted teeth may be genetic – especially a mismatch between the size of your teeth and the size of your jaw – or could be caused by external factors, like early loss of baby teeth, due to an accident or other trauma.
Baby Teeth Can Cause Impacted Adult Teeth
Adult teeth can be impacted due to improper growth or delayed loss of baby teeth. This is common with the canine teeth. Delayed or premature loss of the first set of canines can stop growth of adult canines, causing them to become impacted.
What are the Signs of Impacted Teeth?
You may or may not be able to see the impacted tooth: sometimes, it is visible at the gum line, but stuck from growing in further. In other cases, it may be still entirely embedded in the gums, and you cannot see it.
X-rays help your orthodontist determine the position of the impacted teeth.
If you have crowded teeth, it can be difficult to assess whether a tooth has grown in or not just by looking at your teeth: visiting an orthodontist is important, since they can take x-rays to examine which teeth may not have grown in properly.
If you think you have an impacted tooth, you should consult an orthodontist who can assess whether there is a need for treatment.