Impacted Adult Canine Teeth
Humans have two upper (maxillary) canines and two lower (mandibular) canines teeth. Canine teeth are sometimes referred to as cuspids or “eye teeth” because of their direct positioning beneath the eyes. Canine teeth have thicker roots than incisors and thus have an especially firm connection to the jaw. Canine teeth often have the longest root of all teeth in the human mouth and are the last to fully erupt and fall into place; often around age 13.
An impacted tooth essentially means that it is blocked, stuck, or unable to fully erupt and function properly. Third molars (wisdom teeth) most commonly fall victim to impaction, but the upper canine is the second most common tooth to become impacted. Wisdom teeth serve no important function in the mouth and are frequently removed; however, impacted canines are critical to the bite and require treatment for the following reasons:
- Closing Gaps – Canines are the last of the front teeth to fall into place and therefore close any unsightly gaps between the other upper teeth.
- First Touch – Canines play a vital role in the “biting” mechanism of the teeth. They touch first when the jaw closes, and guide the other teeth into position.
- Proper Alignment & Function – Canine teeth are essential to the correct alignment and function of the other teeth on the dental arch. Missing or impacted canines can greatly affect the function and aesthetic appearance of the smile.
What causes canine teeth to become impacted?
There are several main causes for impacted canine teeth:
Extra Teeth – If extra teeth are present, the natural eruption of the canine teeth may be inhibited. The eruption progress of the canine may be directly blocked by an extra tooth or the subsequent overcrowding might leave no room on the dental arch for the canine.
Overcrowding – In some cases, poor alignment of the front teeth can lead to overcrowding. The existing teeth compete for space which means that the canines do not have sufficient room to erupt and become functional.
Unusual Growths – On rare occasions, unusual growths on the soft tissue of the gums can restrict the progress of canine teeth, which leads to later impaction.
Early and thorough examination of the teeth can pre-empt problems with impacted canines. It is important for the general dentist to document the number teeth present when the patient is around 7 years of age in order to record the presence or absence of canine teeth. The older the patient becomes, the less likely it is that an impacted canine tooth will erupt naturally. If canine teeth are missing or very slow in fully erupting, the dentist or orthodontist can make recommendations for proper treatment.
If after the general dentist or orthodontist conducts a thorough visual and radiographic examination of the teeth, and the cause of the impaction has been determined, they will suggest the best treatment options. If procedures are necessary to aid the canine teeth in eruption, you will be referred to the surgeons at San Antonio Oral Surgery.
What does the treatment of impacted canines involve?
If your mouth is overcrowded for any reason, the dentist may recommend extraction of teeth. Any extractions can be generally be performed in the office with local anesthetic by an oral surgeon. If necessary the oral surgeon may be asked to expose the canine and bond a special bracket. The un-erupted canine is exposed by lifting the gum and placing the special bracket that the orthodontist will use to guide the tooth into the proper position.
If you have questions or have been referred to our surgeons for treatment of impacted canine teeth, contact our office to set up a consultation appointment to discuss treatment, what to expect and anesthesia options.