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Impacted and Ectopic Teeth

An impacted tooth is one that is unable to fully erupt in its proper location because it is blocked by tissue, bone, or another tooth. This may occur because the tooth has tilted out of its normal position, or does not have sufficient space to erupt because of surrounding teeth. The teeth that are most commonly impacted are the wisdom teeth, or third molars. Sometimes, teeth can also fail to erupt become they have fused to the bone of the jaw, a condition called ankylosis.

A tooth that is impacted but does manage to erupt may erupt at an angle, rather than emerging straight out. A tooth that erupts in this manner is called ectopic, meaning that it is displaced or incorrectly positioned. Often, an ectopic tooth is caused by trauma, which can change the position of the tooth in relation to the ligament and bone supporting it.

The most frequent problem associated with impacted teeth is infection. As an impacted tooth tries to erupt, it can push up the gum, creating a place for food debris to collect and decay. Impacted teeth can also sometimes cause cysts underneath the gums, which can damage surrounding teeth. Additionally, the impacted tooth's attempt to erupt can push other surrounding teeth out of their normal position, and can therefore change the alignment and bite of the mouth. An ectopic tooth can infringe on the space of another tooth, in that way also pushing the teeth out of normal positioning.

Symptoms

< p>Some people may experience no symptoms of impacted teeth, other than a visible gap where the tooth has not emerged. Some people, however, experience swelling or irritation in the gum around the impacted tooth, pain when chewing or biting, sensitivity to hot and cold, or pain that sometimes spreads to the jaw, face and ear. People may also have bad breath or sense a foul taste in the mouth, particularly the area around the impaction becomes infected.

Diagnosis

The dentist or oral surgeon can usually diagnose an impacted tooth with a visual examination. He or she may probe your gums to test their sensitivity, and will likely take an x-ray of your mouth to examine the positioning of your teeth under the gums.

Treatment

Minor pain or irritation from swollen gums or infection caused by impacted or ectopic teeth can be controlled with over-the-counter painkillers. Also, gargling with warm salt water can soothe the gums.

If the impacted or ectopic tooth is causing pain or changing the alignment of the teeth you may be advised to have it extracted. In some cases, an extraction can be done at your dentist's office. However, if the tooth is positioned strangely, if more than one tooth is impacted, or if for some other reason the procedure is complicated, you will be referred to an oral surgeon for the extraction.

If the impacted or ectopic tooth is not causing symptoms or displacing teeth in the mouth, you may not need to have it removed. However, in some cases, your dentist or oral surgeon may still recommend an extraction to prevent later problems.

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