What is a soft tissue impacted tooth?

impacted wisdom tooth ChicagoYou may be familiar with the concept of an impacted tooth, which occurs when a tooth fails to fully erupt through the gums. Teeth can become impacted in different ways, however, and are categorized differently.

If a tooth remains fully embedded in the bone, it is referred to as a complete bony impaction. When the tooth is covered partially by the bone, it is called a partial bony impaction. When the tooth is covered only by gum tissue, which impedes it’s eruption, it is referred to as a soft tissue impacted tooth.

Chicago patients with an impacted wisdom tooth can find themselves in any of these three scenarios. Additionally, the wisdom teeth can be impacted horizontally, vertically or at an angle.

Wisdom teeth are the most likely of all the teeth to become impacted. They are the largest teeth (molars), and the human jaw has evolved in a way that minimizes the space available to accommodate these teeth.

Impacted teeth should be removed only by an oral surgeon because the extraction in such cases is a complex procedure and general dentists do not know how to manage any complications.  In most cases, bone must be removed in addition to the tooth. Even with a soft tissue impacted tooth, the extraction can be complicated by other factors, such as an angled or horizontal tooth.

Regardless of whether they are lodged in the bone or soft tissue, impacted wisdom teeth become problematic. They can develop infections or be the source for tumors, lead to abscesses, destroy neighboring teeth and cause significant discomfort.

Even if your impacted wisdom teeth are asymptomatic, you should proactively have them removed, ideally before age 25. Issues can arise at any time, and the procedure is generally simpler for younger patients, who also heal more quickly and tend to face a lower risk of complications.

A soft tissue impacted tooth can be just as problematic as a bony impacted one, so patients who have no sign of the wisdom teeth erupting by their late teens should schedule an evaluation, including x-rays, with an oral and maxillofacial surgeon. This will give you an opportunity to discuss the procedure, as well. To schedule your consultation in the Chicago Loop and surrounding Chicago suburbs, contact the office of the wisdom tooth expert – Dr. Steven Koos.