An impacted tooth is a tooth that is positioned against another tooth, bone, or soft tissue so that it is unlikely to fully erupt through the gums to reach its normal position in the mouth.
Impaction typically occurs in the third molars, also called “wisdom teeth.” Left untreated, about one in three people with an impacted tooth will develop a cyst in the soft tissue beneath the gum line, or other complications. Impaction can lead to tooth decay, gum inflammation or infection, and resorption of bone or adjacent teeth. An impacted tooth can also push against other teeth, causing misalignment of the bite.
Wisdom Teeth (Third Molars)
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Wisdom teeth, which begin to develop around age 9, are most vulnerable to impaction because they are the last teeth to erupt—usually between the late teens and early 20s. By then, the jaw has stopped growing and may be too small to accommodate these four teeth.
An impacted tooth remains embedded in soft gum tissue or bone beyond its normal eruption time. The cause may be overcrowding. Teeth may also become twisted, tilted, or displaced as the new teeth try to emerge.
Last reviewedSeptember 2012by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.