Exposure of Impacted Teeth

What is an impacted tooth?

An impacted tooth simply means that it is “stuck” and cannot erupt into function. Patients frequently develop problems with impacted third molar (wisdom) teeth. These teeth get “stuck” in the back of the jaw and can develop painful infections, among a host of other problems (see Wisdom Teeth under Procedures). Since there is rarely a functional need for wisdom teeth, they are usually extracted if they develop problems. The maxillary cuspid (upper eyetooth) is the second most common tooth to become impacted. The cuspid tooth is a critical tooth and plays an important role in your “bite”. The cuspid teeth are very strong biting teeth and have the longest roots of any human teeth. They are designed to be the first teeth that touch when your jaws close together so they guide the rest of the teeth into the proper bite.

Normally, the maxillary cuspid teeth are the last of the “front” teeth to erupt into place. They usually come into place around age 13 and cause any space left between the upper front teeth to close tighter together. If a cuspid tooth gets impacted, every effort is made to get it to erupt into its proper position. The techniques involved to aid eruption can be applied to any impacted tooth in the upper or lower jaw, but most commonly they are applied to the maxillary cuspid (upper eye) teeth. Sixty percent of these impacted eyeteeth are located on the palatal (roof of the mouth) side of the dental arch. The remaining impacted eye teeth are found in the middle of the supporting bone, but are stuck in an elevated position above the roots of the adjacent teeth, or are out to the facial side of the dental arch.

Early Recognition of Impacted Eyeteeth Is the Key to Successful Treatment

The older the patient the more likely an impacted eyetooth will not erupt by natural forces alone, even if the space is available for the tooth to fit in the dental arch. A panoramic x-ray, along with a dental examination, will help determine whether all the adult teeth are present or if some adult teeth are missing.

Treatment may require referral to an oral surgeon for extraction of over-retained baby teeth and/or selected adult teeth that are blocking the eruption of the all-important eyeteeth. The oral surgeon will also need to remove any extra teeth (supernumerary teeth) or growths that are blocking the eruption of any adult teeth.

Impacted tooth success by patient’s age:

  • 11-12 years old – with space opened for eruption, good chance for success.
  • 13-14 years old – the impacted eyetooth will not erupt by itself, even with the space cleared for its eruption.
  • Over 40 years old – much higher chance that the tooth will be fused in position. The only option is to extract the impacted tooth and replace it with a crown on a dental implant or a fixed bridge.

What happens if the eyetooth will not erupt when proper space is available?

In cases where the eyeteeth will not erupt spontaneously, the orthodontist and oral surgeon will work together to get these teeth to erupt. Each case must be evaluated on an individual basis, but treatment will usually involve a combined effort between the orthodontist and the oral surgeon. The oral surgeon will expose and bracket the impacted eyetooth.

The goal is to erupt the impacted tooth and not to extract it. Once the tooth has moved into its final position, the gum around it will be evaluated. In some circumstances, there may be some minor “gum surgery” required.


Exposure and Bracketing of an Impacted Cuspid


What to expect from surgery to expose & bracket an impacted tooth

The surgery to expose and bracket an impacted tooth is a very straightforward surgical procedure that is performed in the oral surgeon’s office. For most patients, it is performed using laughing gas and local anesthesia. In selected cases it will be performed under IV sedation if the patient desires to be asleep, but this is generally not necessary for this procedure. If the procedure only requires exposing the tooth with no bracketing, the time required will be shortened by about one half. These issues will be discussed in detail at your preoperative consultation with your doctor.

Refer to Preoperative Instructions under Surgical Instructions on this website for a review of any details. Simply call Nelson & Wells Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at Denver Phone Number 303-758-6850 Thornton Phone Nuif you have any questions.

Nelson & Wells Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery

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I had a wisdom tooth pulled. The staff was very friendly which helped me relax. Dr Wells was amazing. He is very kind yet extends a feeling of confidence in his knowledge.

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I would recommend this medical practice to anyone. They always treated me with dignity and respect, were so accommodating, made sure I was always informed of what each procedure involved, sent reminders for the appointments, and gave a phone number in case there were difficulties following any procedure. Having dental work done is not the most fun. But this oral surgery practice made very visit something I really looked forward to. Everyone was really wonderful and I am sorry I wont't need to return or see them again. But, I have very positive memories of the entire experience.

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Dr. Nelson is the best oral surgeon I've ever seen. I've been a bit of a challenge and he's always communicated everything to me. Then proceeded to take care of the situation. Dr. Nelson is pretty awesome.

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I needed to have a molar extracted, before the extraction I was told the procedure would take half an hour and it did. I took tylenol for a day or so and today it's been a week since surgery and my sutures have dissolved and no pain at all! The staff was friendly and considerate, Dr Wells thoroughly explained everything. Dr. Wells and his staff made the experience as pleasant as it could be.

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My daughter had her wisdom teeth removed & did very well. She had minimal discomfort & healed quickly. The doctor & staff are highly recommended.

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Dr Wells and his staff were great. They were highly professional, personable, and very caring. I literally had no pain after the surgery. Thanks for everything!

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My son was having his wisdom teeth removed, the staff was very friendly and the oral surgery lasted less than an hour. After the oral surgery the information given to me for post operation was very helpful. Thank you to the staff and the doctor for taking good care of my son.

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I am very happy that I was referred to this office. I am healing from a wisdom tooth extraction, but I cannot wait to see them next week for a follow up!

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The entirty of my wisdom teeth extraction was plesant, due to the professionalism and skill from both the doctor(s) and staff. Dr. Nelson performed so well I didn't have any swelling, bruising, nor pain! I was terribly nervous going into this surgery, but all of my anxieties were washed away soon thereafter. I will recommend Nelson, Rollert & Wells Associates to friends and family in the Denver area.

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