If teeth are very crowded or they fail to develop in the correct position they may become impacted (blocked from coming through the gum) or partially impacted (begun to break through the gum but have gotten stuck). This means the teeth are stuck and will not grow into the mouth naturally without orthodontic or surgical intervention. It is difficult to care for partially impacted correctly and they are at a higher risk for dental problems including decay, infection, gum disease and crowding.
It is recommended to have an orthodontic assessment between the ages of 7-10 so the orthodontist can monitor the developing teeth. If the orthodontist is concerned teeth may become impacted an initial phase of orthodontic treatment may be recommended to help reduce the risk of teeth becoming stuck. This may include an expansion appliance to create space for the developing teeth and possible removal of the overlying baby tooth to make it easier for the adult tooth to come through.
In older patients, an impacted tooth may require uncovering in order to attach an orthodontic appliance to the tooth to guide it into position. This is usually combined with full braces treatment. This procedure is called an exposure and would be performed by a specialist surgeon.