An unerupted or impacted tooth is a tooth that has formed but not emerged into the mouth. Teeth that fail to erupt can damage surrounding teeth gums and supporting bone and lead to the formation of tumours and cysts that can severly disrupt the jaw. Because of this risk unerupted teeth are often extracted.
An impacted tooth remains stuck in gum tissue or bone for various reasons. It may be that the area is just overcrowded and there's no room for the teeth to emerge. For example, the jaw may be too small to fit the wisdom teeth. Teeth may also become twisted, tilted, or displaced as they try to emerge, resulting in impacted teeth.
Failure to erupt occurs most frequently among third molars also known as wisdom teeth. Third molars are last teeth to develop; thus by the time they are ready to erupt there is often no room for them in the jaw and they remain beneath the gums. Canines the four pointy teeth surrounding your front teeth and premolars the teeth between your canines and molars are also known to become impacted.
Unerupted teeth can eventually cause the following symptoms:
- Pain, Swelling and Infection in the surrounding tissues.
- Bad breath.
- Difficulty opening the mouth.
- Visible gap where the tooth did not emerge.
- Prolonged headache or jaw ache.
- Swollen lymph nodes.
No treatment may be needed if the impacted tooth is not causing any problems.
Over-the-counter pain relievers may help if the impacted tooth causes discomfort. Warm salt water (one-half teaspoon of salt in one cup of water) or over-the-counter mouthwashes may be soothing to the gums.
Removal of the tooth (extraction) is the usual treatment for an impacted tooth. This is usually done in the dentist's office, but difficult cases may require an oral surgeon. Antibiotics may be prescribed before the extraction if the tooth is infected.