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.

Symptoms: You should see a dentist if you experience:

  • Pain or tenderness of the gums or jaw bone
  • Unpleasant taste when biting down
  • Bad breath, Redness and swelling of the gums around the impacted tooth
  • Prolonged, unexplained headache or jaw ache
  • Difficulty opening your mouth (occasionally)

If you’re having problems such as these with your wisdom teeth, make an appointment to see your dentist. Having impacted wisdom teeth surgically removed (extracted) can help to stop these problems.