You may have heard of impacted wisdom teeth since they are fairly common. Did you know that other teeth can become impacted? Usually, you will not know if your child has an impacted tooth until their dentist sees it in an x-ray. Sometimes impacted teeth do not need treatment, but oftentimes they will require orthodontic intervention since they can damage nearby teeth and cause a child’s developing bite to become misaligned, and even negatively impact facial structure. The type of treatment depends on multiple factors, including which tooth is impacted. Read on to learn about impacted teeth and our recommendations and treatments if your child is diagnosed with an impacted tooth.
An impacted tooth is a situation that arises when a tooth is blocked from growing in completely. A partially impacted tooth occurs when a tooth has started to break through but is not able to completely grow to the normal position. A fully impacted tooth is unable to break through the gum at all.
A tooth may become impacted when there is not enough space in the jaw for it to erupt, or when it is blocked by another tooth, bone, or gum tissue. Sometimes, the exact cause is unknown, but genetics often plays a role. If either parent had impacted teeth, it is more likely that the child will also.
Sometimes, impacted teeth are fine where they are, and can be left in place and monitored. Other times, they can be the sources of orthodontic or dental problems and will need treatment.
Interestingly, certain teeth tend to become impacted far more often than the rest. As mentioned earlier, wisdom teeth are the most commonly impacted teeth. The two upper cuspids (also called canine teeth, or eyeteeth) are the second most frequently impacted teeth.
When do impacted teeth need to be treated?
Sometimes, an impacted tooth will damage nearby teeth, or harm the roots of neighboring teeth. They may cause crowding or push other teeth into unhealthy positions, leading to misalignment. This can cause pain when biting down, or even make it difficult to bite and chew. Although rare, a cyst can also form around the impacted tooth and cause damage to teeth, nerves, and your jaw.
A partially erupted tooth has a much higher chance of developing cavities because it is difficult to completely clean under the overlapping gum tissue. The trapped debris and bacteria can also lead to bad breath and gum disease and could cause infection. If infection occurs, you will often experience red, swollen, tender, or bleeding gums, pain, bad breath, and difficulty opening your mouth.
Impacted wisdom teeth only need to be treated when they are causing orthodontic or dental problems. At Jungle Roots Children’s Dentistry, we practice conservative dentistry. This means that we thoroughly evaluate wisdom teeth and their impact on the health of the mouth before making a recommendation to remove them. When possible, we wait and watch their development before making any recommendations.
Impacted canine teeth can have a much different influence on a developing mouth and will nearly always require treatment. They are critical in the dental arch, are designed to guide the rest of your teeth into a well-functioning bite, and even affect the appearance of the face. Incredibly strong, they have the longest root of all the teeth which grows deep into the bone. Canine teeth are needed to easily rip and tear food.
Although less common, any of the other teeth may become impacted. Often, unless the impacted tooth is a wisdom tooth, it will need some form of treatment.
How We Treat Impacted Teeth
Regular checkups allow us to monitor the development of your child’s mouth and emerging teeth. When there are unlikely to be any problems from an impacted tooth, we will simply monitor it during regular checkups. X-rays are a great tool that give us the ability to identify and observe the development of impacted teeth.
If we catch it early enough, treatment for an impacted tooth may be much simpler than if left until later. When treated early, braces can help align the other teeth and make room for a tooth emerging in the wrong position. Palatal expansion may also help create enough room in the jaw. If a baby tooth has not come out and is blocking a permanent tooth, it will most likely be extracted. The impacted tooth will often erupt and align on its own if space is created before it begins to emerge.
Upper canine teeth are some of the last permanent teeth to erupt, which makes it easier to use orthodontic treatments to create the necessary room for them to erupt naturally. It is best to create space for canine teeth by the time a child turns 11. If treatment is delayed for canine teeth, and many of the other teeth, it becomes lengthier and more complicated.
Once space is cleared, if a tooth does not erupt on its own, we will use eruption aids to help the tooth grow in properly. After space is created, a simple procedure will be performed to lift the gum and expose the hidden tooth. A bracket will be bonded to the tooth and attached to the archwire of the braces. We will begin a very careful, controlled process of guiding the tooth out of the gum and into alignment with the rest of the teeth. This part of the process can take a full year.
Impacted wisdom teeth are often handled differently. Since they are not vital to a healthy bite or chewing, they may be left alone and monitored. If likely to be a problem to orthodontic or dental health, they will be extracted. Wisdom tooth extraction is a relatively simple procedure. Although you will need to eat soft foods for a couple of days, it should only take around a week or two to heal.
Summer is a perfect time to schedule a dental checkup or begin orthodontic treatment. If your child has been diagnosed with an impacted tooth, or you suspect that they may have one, we would be happy to consult with you and answer any questions that you may have. We would also be privileged to schedule an orthodontic screening appointment for your 7 or 8-year-old, to determine if there are signs of future problems that need to be watched. We hope you are having a happy summer and look forward to seeing your beautiful smile!
At Jungle Roots Children’s Dentistry & Orthodontics, we strive to provide the highest comprehensive pediatric and orthodontic dental care in a unique, fun-filled environment staffed by a team of caring, energetic professionals. We believe the establishment of a “dental home” at an early age is the key to a lifetime of positive visits to the dentist.
Call Us at (480) 759-1119