For best performance and appearance, all your teeth need to develop in healthy alignment. If your tooth is impacted, this may affect its function as well as the overall appearance of your smile. The following article will explain the different causes of impacted canines, the consequences of having impacted canines and the treatment options.
What are Impacted Canines?
This happens when one or both of your canine teeth fail to come into the mouth and instead remain in the alveolar bone (the ridge of bone that contains the tooth sockets) in an ectopic (abnormal) position.
What causes canine teeth to become impacted?
The presence of extra teeth in your mouth may inhibit the natural development of the canine teeth. The extra teeth may block the eruption progress of the canine. Subsequently, the congestion caused by excess teeth might leave little or no room on the dental arch for the canine.
Sometimes, the poor alignment of your front teeth may cause overcrowding. This leads to your teeth competing for space, meaning that the canines lack sufficient space to become fully functional.
In rare cases, abnormal growths on the soft tissue of the gum may restrict the proper eruption of canine teeth, which can lead to later impaction.
Some of the other causes of impacted canine include:
- Early loss or removal of baby teeth
- Mismatched shape and size of teeth
- Problems in the number and alignment of teeth
Why are canine teeth important?
Canines are indispensable teeth that are placed strategically in your mouth. These teeth make the transition between the anterior (front) teeth and the posterior (hind) teeth. Canines have the most extensive root of all teeth and are uniquely positioned in your dental arch. Also, since they have a unique sharp shape, it is not unusual to observe their distinction and malposition.
Canines are strong and stable teeth that are intended to tear foods. They also guide the movement of the lower jaw when chewing. Canines touch first whenever the jaw closes, guiding the other teeth into position.
Canines naturally have a darker colour which ensures a beautiful transition between the lightly coloured incisors and posterior teeth.
Canine teeth erupt after the premolars in the upper arch. Being the last teeth to erupt, they are often left with limited space which they have to work with.
Early identification of impacted canine improves the chances of successful treatment. The older a patient gets, the higher the chances that the impacted canine might not erupt normally, even if there is sufficient space for the impacted tooth to fit in the dental arch properly.
A screening x-ray coupled with dental examinations should be carried out on dental patients aged around seven years. These examinations allow the dentist to determine whether there are any problems with the eruption of adult teeth.
In other cases, the removal of baby canine teeth creates sufficient space for the permanent canines to drop into their right position. Ideally, this should be done around the age of 10 to 13 years. However, it does not guarantee complete rectification or elimination of the underlying problem. The tooth should be carefully monitored, and if it does not self-correct or improve after a year, other treatments need to be undertaken. If a problem is identified, your dentist may need to place braces to aid in opening up the space between your teeth to allow proper eruption and growth of adult canine teeth.
Consequences of impacted canines
The impacted canines often put pressure on the adjacent teeth and nerves, which may damage not only their structures but also cause intense pain.
Impacted Canine Treatment options
If impacted canines are not treated, they will just stay buried and might, or might not give you any problems. An untreated impacted canine may also result in the following outcomes;
The tooth may continue growing behind other teeth in your mouth. In an attempt to find a path, some impacted canines may damage adjacent teeth. The impacted canine may begin eating away a part of the adjacent tooth’s root, which might give you problems. In case the baby canine is lost, and the adult one remains impacted, you may be left with some space, which you can decide to close with a false tooth, some denture or bridge.
There are times when a cyst may develop around the impacted tooth crown, pushing the adjacent teeth out of their normal position.
Uncovering the buried tooth to bring it into the correct place in the mouth
What will the treatment involve?
Exposure: this operation is conducted under general anaesthesia and involves a small cut in the palate to expose the crown of the impacted canine. Depending on the available space left for your canine to grow, the adjacent teeth may be extracted, and an orthodontic device introduced. An orthodontic appliance such as braces helps align teeth in a proper position. Exposing and aligning the impacted canine helps to prevent future impairments and works to make your smile aesthetically pleasing.
How long will I need to wear a fixed brace?
Typically, moving an impacted canine can be a slow process. You may need to wear your fixed braces for more than two years for the treatment to be complete.
Removing the buried tooth completely
Complete removal of the impacted teeth typically occurs when the tooth is embedded in a position that is difficult or impossible to realign, and if the tooth is causing problems to the adjacent teeth. This procedure is usually performed under local or general anesthesia. If the extracted tooth leaves a noticeable gap, a bridge or denture may be used.
Transplanting the impacted tooth to its right position
This procedure is recommended when a surgical exposure is not a suitable option for treatment. However, there should be enough space between the patient’s teeth. Your doctor will begin by removing the baby canine and the impacted permanent canine. After that, your doctor will place the permanent tooth in its right position. Normally, the transplanted tooth is braced for 2 to 3 weeks to allow it to set in well.
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Savina Clinic – Dental & Implantology Centres are friendly, state-of-the-art practices in Malta and Gozo dedicated to comprehensive quality dental care. Savina Dental is an innovative dental practice in Malta and prides itself on the high-quality customer service, low waiting room times, attention to detail and the advanced dental technology at their disposal.
Dr Joseph Xuereb
Dental & Implant Surgeon. Principal
Savina Dental Clinics