In a healthy mouth, both baby and adult teeth form inside the jawbone, then push straight out through the gum when they’re ready. But sometimes, the tooth forms and doesn’t finish moving into position as usual, an issue especially common with canine and wisdom teeth. Those that fail to emerge are called impacted teeth and can sometimes require oral surgery to fix. Here’s what you need to know to get treatment.

The Problem With Impacted Teeth

When teeth fail to emerge, they can leave a gap in your smile and the surrounding teeth vulnerable. They're designed to support one another and work together in one smooth arch. Those on either side of a gap bear more pressure when biting, making them more likely to become crooked or break. 

Meanwhile, the impacted tooth may not just stay still inside your jaw. It can push on the roots of other teeth, moving them out of place, or emerge through the side of your gums instead of the chewing surface.

What Causes Them

oral surgery

Teeth most often fail to emerge when something is blocking the way. If you have extra teeth—a condition called hyperdontia or supernumerary teeth—then some may not have room to grow into. There may also be crowding in your mouth due to the natural growth of your teeth and jaw. Wisdom teeth may not emerge because the jawbone is too small to accommodate them. Some kinds of gum growths can also create barriers.

Treatment Options

Wisdom teeth are usually not needed for a healthy bite, so your dentist will often recommend extraction. An oral surgery provider will create a small opening in the gum and jawbone, divide the tooth into pieces to make extraction easier, then remove all the pieces. Finally, they’ll close the gap so your jaw can heal.

Other teeth, including canines, are much more important to your bite. Instead of extracting them, your dentist will usually recommend oral surgery to help them emerge. You may need orthodontic treatment to shift your other teeth to make room. Then, depending on the tooth and the condition of your mouth, your provider may create a small opening and let the tooth emerge naturally, or they may use an orthodontic bracket to put pressure on the tooth and gradually pull it into place over the course of months.


To schedule oral surgery for impacted teeth, turn to Oral Surgery Associates of Alaska in Kenai, Homer, and Anchorage. Board-certified surgeons Dr. William F. Bergeron, Jr. and Dr. Ray Holloway provide treatment for a wide range of dental injuries and conditions, using advanced diagnostic tools like the I-CAT 3-Dimensional Imaging CT Scan. To make an appointment, call (907) 561-1430 or visit their website.