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Infected Tooth vs. an Impacted Tooth

What's the difference between an infected tooth and an impacted tooth?

It is possible for an impacted tooth to be infected, but not all impacted teeth are infected. Impacted teeth can cause major problems, but on the other hand some people have impacted teeth their entire lives that never bother them or pose a dental threat. The more likely scenario is that it will have to be removed at some point. Most impacted teeth are third molars otherwise known as wisdom teeth. Infection can happen on any teeth, visible or otherwise.

What are the signs of an infected tooth?

Infected Tooth vs. an Impacted ToothSevere toothache that is continuous is a sign of an abscessed tooth. Pain can often be described as gnawing, throbbing, shooting or sharp. Tooth sensitivity is common and when infection is severe, fever oftentimes erupts. Abscessed teeth are usually infections inside the teeth that have spread to the root tip or around it. It usually comes from the tooth’s inner part called the “pulp” where blood vessels and nerves are located. When bacteria invade the pulp, it feeds on blood and multiplies until it spreads and exits to the root into the jawbone. The abscess is a collection of pus that is made up of dead white blood cells, tissue debris, and bacteria.

The most common cause of an infected tooth is tooth decay that has become so large or deep that it has reached the pulp of the tooth already. Other causes for a tooth to become necrotic and abscess are: 1) a blow to a tooth, 2) dental treatment such as a crown or a filling that gets too close to the pulp chamber, or 3) trauma to a tooth from grinding or clenching.

Any tooth can develop an abscess and become infected but, wisdom teeth are prone to getting infected because they are difficult to clean because they are located at the very back of the mouth. They often develop decay that goes unnoticed until it’s too late.

How do you treat an infected tooth (tooth abscess)?

Tooth preservation is always going to be your dentist’s concern. Dr. Reese practices biomimetic dentistry and will always try to save your teeth and avoid tooth extraction.

Infected teeth most often need a root canal or apicoectomy to remove the infection. Root Canal Therapy is a dental procedure, which involves the removal of the nerve inside of the tooth while apicoectomy, or root-end resection, is the removal of the root tip and the surrounding infected tissue of an abscessed tooth. Endodontic therapy or root canal treatment is an oral surgery in itself. An abscess is a pocket of infection that can be located at the base (periapical) of a tooth's root or lateral to the tooth's root. A lateral abscess is different in that it comes from the outside of the tooth and can either be gingival or periodontal.

What are the signs of an impacted tooth?

Impacted teeth are unerupted or partially erupted teeth that cannot fully erupt due to lack of space (crowding), misalignment (tooth is rotated out of position), conflicting position (another tooth has erupted over that position), or ankylosis. Wisdom teeth are the most common impacted teeth, being the last ones to emerge between the ages of 17 and 21.

Impacted teeth are actually very common. They are usually painless and don’t cause any trouble. Some dentists believe that an impacted tooth can push into another tooth and misalign one’s bite while an partially erupted tooth can trap food in the soft tissue around it that can lead to tooth decay or inflammation to the gum (pericoronitis).

When one has an impacted tooth, the first thing that one will notice is redness and swelling of the gums around the area. Occasionally, one can experience difficulty in opening his mouth and pain might be felt along the gums. A dental x-ray is going to be most definitive procedure to diagnose an impacted tooth.

How do you treat an impacted tooth?

If impacted teeth don’t cause any problems, it may never require treatment. If it causes discomfort, pain relievers may help but tooth extraction (tooth removal) is the usual treatment method for an impacted tooth. It requires an oral surgeon like Dr. Reese who has over 25 years of experience doing oral surgeries with various sedation techniques to help keep his patients as comfortable, calm and pain-free as possible during the procedure.

Let Dr. Reese Take Care of You

From correct diagnosis of your tooth problem to corresponding treatment, Dr. Reese will help you preserve your teeth and prevent future problems an impacted tooth can bring. Whether you need endodontic surgery or tooth extraction, Dr. Reese and his qualified and able staff will keep you as comfortable as possible. Call 317-882-0228 for an appointment.