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An impacted tooth is a tooth that, for some reason, has been blocked from breaking through the gum. Sometimes a tooth may be only partially impacted, meaning it has started to break through.

Oftentimes, impacted teeth cause no obvious symptoms and are only discovered during a routine X-ray at the dentist’s office.

Symptoms of impacted teeth

You may not experience any symptoms in some cases. In other cases, an impacted tooth may cause:

  • red, swollen, or bleeding gums

  • bad breath

  • a bad taste in your mouth

  • difficulty opening your mouth

  • pain when opening your mouth, or when chewing and biting

Symptoms may come and go over weeks or months.

What causes an impacted tooth?

In general, a tooth becomes impacted when your mouth doesn’t have enough space for it. This can be the result of genetics or orthodontic treatment.

Which teeth are most often impacted?

  • Wisdom teeth, which are usually the last teeth to grow in — typically between the ages of 17 to 21 — are most typically impacted.

  • By the time that wisdom teeth — also known as “third molars” — come in, the jaw has often stopped growing. The mouth and jaw may thus be too small to accommodate them. Because there’s no real need for wisdom teeth anymore, they’re typically removed if they’re a problem. If you have a small jaw, you’re more likely to have impacted wisdom teeth.

  • The second most common teeth to be impacted are the maxillary canines, also referred to as the cuspid or upper eyeteeth. Because these teeth play a more important role in your mouth, your doctor is more likely to recommend treatments that encourage these teeth to erupt instead of removing them.

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