Wisdom teeth are the most likely ones in your mouth to become impacted and, therefore, require removal. Perhaps that’s why we’re not as well aware of the possibility that your canines can also become impacted and require attention from a dental professional.
Let’s start at the beginning: you might not even know what it means to have an impacted tooth. Simply put, an impacted tooth is one that’s stuck, which means it cannot erupt from the gums or function properly. Canine teeth are some of the last to come in, typically appearing when you’re between 11 and 12 years old. As the name implies — canine means dog, after all — your canine teeth are the longer, pointed teeth on the upper arch of your jaw. They’re vital to the health of your entire mouth. Not only do they provide power in your bite — they’re very strong — but they are the first to come in contact with your lower line of teeth. This means they guide all of your teeth into proper alignment with each bite.
So, how do you know if your canines are impacted? Most dentists will start keeping an eye out for potentially impacted canines when patients are around the age of seven. X-rays will reveal any potential overcrowding that will occur with the growth of any remaining canines. Of course, if there’s not enough space for your canine to grow, then the dentist will arrange for some sort of orthodontic assist.
The orthodontist will likely use braces to open up space for an impacted canine to emerge from the gums properly. In more extreme cases, an oral surgeon will make space by extracting any baby teeth that have yet to fall out on their own. In either case, the clearance of space with plenty of time to spare means that teeth will erupt without any incident.
To that end, it is vital to regularly visit the dentist and orthodontist in order to prevent any impacted canines in the future. If the space is cleared well in advance, then teeth should erupt without incident. However, missing the mark by even a year or two — so, if patients are 13 or 14 — impacted canines might require a surgery in order to have them erupt properly. The reality is even worse for adult patients, especially those over 40: at this point, it’s likely that the impacted tooth will be fused into its impacted position. Your dentist and orthodontist will have no alternative and, even with surgery to clear space for eruption, the tooth simply will not budge. At that point, the only way to resolve the situation is to remove the impacted tooth and replace it with a crown, dental implant or fixed bridge.
Of course, the main goal of all dental professionals and patients is to keep the natural teeth in place and to keep them healthy for a lifetime. In order to do so, early detection of any impacted tooth growth is key. And, with regular visits to the dentist, you can help yourself and your family members to avoid any problems down the road.