How do I know if I need to worry about impacted canines?
Impacted canine teeth can cause many oral health issues and compromise the appearance of your smile.
The longer canines remain impacted, the more likely they are to cause problems. Fortunately, several treatments can correct this issue.
When to Become Concerned About Impacted Canines
Canine teeth (the long, pointed teeth next to the incisors) typically erupt between ages 11 and 12. If by age 14 or 15, they still have not appeared or the baby tooth is still in place, you may need treatment for impaction.
Absence of Usual Signs
Generally, by age 10, children should have a bulge in the location where the canines are going to erupt. This lump should appear on the front of the gums, not on the soft palate.
Tipped or Migrated Canines
In some cases, canine teeth can start to grow in crooked, sideways, or backward. These are signs of impaction and may require treatment.
Impacted Canines Are Difficult to Spot without an X-Ray
When a tooth is impacted, it means the tooth is caught in the jaw or under the gums, meaning visible signs of issues are less likely.
If you suspect impacted canines, it is a good idea to schedule an appointment with your dentist for an x-ray.
What causes canine teeth to become impacted?
While the Cause of Canine Impaction Isn’t Always Clear, There Are a Few Common Factors
Insufficient Jaw Space
A common reason canines fail to erupt is jaw space. For many patients with impacted canines, the tooth is too large to fit in the available space. This may happen because the jaw is crowded or too small.
Timing of Tooth Loss
Baby teeth act as guides for adult teeth. If the baby tooth falls out too early or too late, it can affect the ability of the permanent tooth to grow in properly.
Extra teeth, abnormal growths on the soft tissue, or other issues can all interfere with the proper eruption of canine teeth.
X-Rays Are an Excellent Tool for Identifying Impacted Teeth
If your doctor suspects one or more of your canine teeth are impacted, he or she will likely take a panoramic x-ray. In some cases, your dentist may also use a cone beam computed tomography (CBCT) scan to assess damage to neighboring teeth and the amount of bone around the impacted tooth. This information can help your dentist determine the cause of the impaction and the best treatment method.
Generally, the older a patient is, the less likely canine teeth will be to erupt on their own.
Early Diagnosis Can Help Avoid Problems
Schedule an Orthodontic Exam Early
The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) recommends all children undergo an orthodontic evaluation no later than age seven. This appointment allows an orthodontist to spot potential issues with canine teeth before they become a problem.
Extracting Extra Teeth
Some individuals have a condition known as hyperdontia, which causes extra teeth to grow. These extra teeth can cause overcrowding and prevent canine teeth from erupting properly. Removing these teeth early can help prevent impaction.
More and more orthodontists recommend children undergo early treatment to help ensure the jaw develops properly. Interceptive treatment can include braces, palatal expanders, or other devices that create enough space in the jaw for all teeth to erupt at the right time and in the right place.
When Prevention Isn't Possible, Orthodontics Can Make a Big Difference
Braces or other orthodontic treatments can create space for the canine teeth to erupt and then guide them into place. Adults may need a minor procedure to expose the impacted canine and place a bracket to pull it into position.
Are Braces My Only Option?
Your Dentist May Recommend a Different Treatment, Depending on the Cause and Severity of the Impaction
Leave the Impacted Canine but Fill the Space
One option is to leave the impacted tooth and fill the gap with a restoration, such as a dental bridge.
Extract the Canine
Removing the canine tooth is a generally considered a good choice if the tooth is crooked and could cause damage to neighboring teeth.
If you do not mind the gap in your smile and the impacted tooth is not causing issues, you have the option of doing nothing.