Mention an impacted tooth, and most people immediately think of wisdom teeth. For sure, those third molars do frequently become impacted, wedged beneath your neighboring molars. But impaction affects other teeth too, like your pointy canines, teeth that are surprisingly prone to impaction.
A leading oral surgeon in San Francisco and Oakland, California, Brandon Kang, DDS, treats impacted teeth using advanced techniques aimed at minimizing discomfort and maximizing oral health in patients at Pacific Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery Center.
If you have an impacted tooth, here’s what he wants you to know.
Typically, when a tooth erupts — breaks through your gum — the entire upper part of the tooth emerges. An impacted tooth is a tooth that emerges only partway or doesn’t emerge at all, becoming trapped below your gum.
Usually, impaction happens when your tooth gets trapped or blocked by a neighboring tooth. Most commonly, this type of impaction happens when your teeth are overcrowded, and there’s no room in your jaw for a tooth to emerge in its normal position.
Other times, impaction happens when a tooth that’s ready to emerge is in an odd position — twisted or sideways, for instance. Your tooth’s position may prevent it from erupting normally.
Impaction is fairly common, most often affecting the wisdom teeth or canines. While some impacted teeth cause no symptoms, many people with impaction experience considerable pain as the impacted tooth pushes against neighboring teeth.
In addition to pain, impacted teeth affect your oral health in other ways.
Teeth naturally want to erupt, and until they achieve that goal, they’ll continue to try to force their way to your gum’s surface. If they’re stuck under a tooth, that continual pressure weakens your tooth’s roots, increasing your risk of tooth loss (and causing a lot of pain too).
By pressing against your other teeth, an impacted tooth can cause those teeth to shift and change their positions, altering your bite balance and leading to chronic jaw pain.
Impacted teeth that are partially erupted are notoriously hard to keep clean. As a result, they become harbors for decay- and disease-causing bacteria, substantially increasing your risks of serious oral health problems.
Dr. Kang uses different techniques to treat impaction, largely depending on which tooth is affected.
For wisdom teeth, Dr. Kang typically recommends extraction. That’s because wisdom teeth are located very far back in your jaw, and they’re not needed for chewing or speaking. They’re also not visible.
On the other hand, canine teeth are very visible, and they also play a role in both chewing and speaking. For these teeth, Dr. Kang recommends a technique called exposure and ligation instead of extraction.
During this treatment, Dr. Kang exposes the impacted tooth below your gum, then attaches a tiny gold chain to the tooth. Over the next few weeks or months, Dr. Kang applies gentle pressure to the chain, gradually leading your tooth into its normal position before removing the chain.
In young patients, exposure and ligation can be performed even before a canine would normally erupt, preventing impaction and the problems it can cause.
Even if your impacted tooth isn’t causing pain, it still needs to be treated to prevent more serious problems in your future. Delaying treatment increases your risks of decay, infection, and damage to your other teeth.
If you have an impacted tooth, Dr. Kang tailors a treatment plan just for you. To learn more, book an appointment online or over the phone at Pacific Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery Center today.