A smaller number are left to wonder if a tooth or two might have gotten lost somewhere under their gums. When that happens, we call it an impacted tooth. It happens most often to wisdom teeth, but not always.
The next most likely teeth to become impacted are the upper canines or eyeteeth (or, more often, just one of them), because the lateral incisors and the first premolars usually come in before they do. If there’s a crowding problem, there might not be enough space left for the canines to erupt.
Adult canine teeth are important because they form the “corners” of our smiles. If one or both of them fails to erupt, it makes a big difference to a person’s appearance.
Impacted teeth can cause infections, gum disease, nerve damage, and cavities. Symptoms include a persistent bad taste or bad breath, tenderness and pain around the jaw, headaches, and swollen lymph nodes or gums. They also leave a visible gap where they should be erupting, and the baby tooth might never become loose on its own if it’s an impacted canine.
There isn’t much that can prevent tooth impaction, but it is very treatable. An impacted tooth can be discovered with dental X-rays. Impacted canines can be moved into their proper positions through a combination of oral surgery and orthodontic treatment.