Impacted teeth predispose to periodontal disease and dental caries of adjacent teeth resulting in pain, discomfort and loss of function. This study analyzed the pattern of occurrence of impacted teeth, associated symptoms, treatment and complications of treatment in patients who presented at the Muhimbili National Hospital, Tanzania.
This was a crossectional descriptive study which utilized notes and x rays of patients who were treated for impacted teeth at the Oral and Maxillofacial firm in Muhimbili National Hospital over five years, from January 2005 to August 2010. These records were retrieved and examined for the major complaint of the patient at presentation to hospital, demography, impacted tooth, type of impaction (for third molars), treatment offered and complications after treatment. Similar information was collected from all patients with impacted teeth attended in the same centre from 1st September 2010 to 31st August 2011.
A total of 896 patients (496 males and 400 females) treated for complaints related to impacted teeth were recorded. The male to female ratio was 1.2:1, age range of 16 to 85 years and a mean age of 28.9 years (SD = 9.5).
Slightly more than 84% of the patients presented with mandibular third molar impactions. Most (44.7%) of these patients had an impacted lower right third molar followed by those presenting with a lower left third molar impaction (39.7%). In 1.3% of the patients all the four third molars were impacted. Sixty nine (7.7%) patients had impacted upper 3rd molars while 2% had impacted upper canines. Of the mandibular 3rd molar impactions 738 (76%) were mesio-angular type, 87 (8.9%) horizontal type and 69 (7.1%) disto-angular.
Patients presented with a variety of complaints. About 85% of the patients presented to hospital due to varying degrees of pain. In 4.9% the detection of the impacted tooth/teeth was coincidental after presenting to hospital for other reasons not related to the impaction.
Majority of the patients with impacted mandibular third molars had carious lesions on the impacted teeth, neighbouring tooth or both. Four hundred and five (45.2%) patients had a carious lesion on one of the impacted teeth while 201(22.4%) patients had a carious lesion on the adjacent second molar. In 122 (13.6%) patients both the impacted third molar and the adjacent second molar were carious. In twelve patients who presented with a main complaint of fracture of the angle of the mandible there was an associated impacted 3rd molar. Eight hundred and fifteen (91%) patients with impacted teeth were treated by surgical removal. Among these only 15 (1.8%) had complications that ranged from excessive swellings, trismus and severe pain post operatively. One patient was reported to have fracture of the angle of the mandible sustained during surgical removal of an impacted 48.
The majority of patients with impacted teeth were young with an almost equal sex distribution. The most commonly impacted teeth were mandibular third molars followed by the maxillary third molars. Patients with impacted teeth reported for health care predominantly because of pain due to dental caries or infection.
There is a need of creating appropriate programmes that would further raise peoples’ awareness to regular dental checkups so that appropriate measures are taken before complications arise.