Impacted Molar

What is Impacted Molar

Molars are the teeth in the back of the mouth. When they push out from the gum and grow (erupt), they can become trapped inside the gum, or they may only partially come through the gum surface (become impacted).

Molars erupt at different times in life. The first set of molars usually erupts at about 6–7 years of age. The second set of molars typically erupts at about 11–13 years of age. The third set of molars usually erupts at about 17–21 years of age. This set of molars is sometimes referred to as wisdom teeth. Wisdom teeth are most often affected by this condition, although any molar or set of molars can become impacted.

Impacted molars may increase your risk of developing:

  • Infection.
  • Damage to nearby teeth.
  • Growth of fluid-filled sacs (cysts).
  • Long-lasting (chronic) discomfort.
  • Inflammation of the surrounding gum tissue (pericoronitis).

What are the causes?

Common causes of this condition include having crowded teeth or a small mouth. This means that there may not be space for the molar to grow into. Other causes include a cyst or a mass (tumor).

What are the signs or symptoms?

Symptoms of this condition include:

  • Pain.
  • Inflammation near the impacted tooth or teeth.
  • A stiff jaw.
  • Bad breath.
  • A gap between the teeth.
  • Difficulty opening your mouth.
  • A headache or jaw ache.
  • Swollen lymph nodes.
  • A bad taste in your mouth.

In some cases, there are no symptoms.

How is this diagnosed?

This condition can be diagnosed with an oral exam and X-rays.

How is this treated?

This condition is often treated by removing (extracting) the impacted molar or molars. Other treatment options include:

  • A procedure to remove the gum tissue that covers the impacted molar.
  • Repositioning the teeth so there is room for the molar to come through. This may be done with orthodontic devices, such as braces.
  • Antibiotic medicines, if your impacted molar or set of molars has become infected.
  • Medicines for pain, if needed.

Treatment may not be needed if you have no symptoms. Talk with your health care provider about what is best for you.

Follow these instructions at home:

Medicines

  • Take over-the-counter and prescription medicines only as told by your health care provider.
  • If you were prescribed an antibiotic medicine, take it as told by your health care provider. Do not stop taking the antibiotic even if you start to feel better.
  • If you are taking prescription pain medicine, take actions to prevent or treat constipation. Your health care provider may recommend that you:
    • Drink enough fluid to keep your urine pale yellow.
    • Eat foods that are high in fiber, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and beans.
    • Limit foods that are high in fat and processed sugars, such as fried or sweet foods.
    • Take an over-the-counter or prescription medicine for constipation.

General instructions

  • If directed, put ice on the painful area:
    • Put ice in a plastic bag.
    • Place a towel between your skin and the bag.
    • Leave the ice on for 20 minutes, 2–3 times a day.
  • Your health care provider may recommend that you rinse your mouth 3–4 times a day to help with pain, infection, or inflammation. You may use:
    • An antibacterial solution. Use it as told by your health care provider.
    • A salt-water rinse. To make a salt-water mixture, completely dissolve ½–1 tsp of salt in 1 cup of warm water.
  • Keep all follow-up visits as told by your health care provider. This is important.

Contact a health care provider if you have:

  • A fever.
  • Symptoms that get worse.
  • Pain that is not controlled with medicine.
  • New symptoms, including:
    • New facial swelling or numbness.
    • Swelling along your gums.
  • Difficulty opening your mouth.
  • Difficulty swallowing.

Summary

  • Molars are the teeth in the back of the mouth. When they push out from the gum and grow, they can become trapped inside the gum, or they may only partially come through the gum surface (become impacted).
  • Impacted molars may increase the risk of developing infection, damage to nearby teeth, growth of fluid-filled sacs (cysts), chronic pain, or inflammation of the surrounding gum tissue.
  • Common causes of this condition include having crowded teeth, a small mouth, a cyst, or a mass (tumor).
  • This condition is often treated by removing (extracting) the impacted molar or molars. Other options include removing the gum tissue that covers the impacted molar, repositioning the teeth with braces, or taking antibiotic medicine for infection.
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