An impacted tooth means that it is blocked, or unable to fully erupt and function properly. Impacted teeth most often involve the third molars or wisdom teeth, (see Wisdom Teeth under Procedures) but the maxillary canine teeth, also known as the eyeteeth, are the second most common teeth to become impacted. The canine teeth are critical to the dental arch and play an important role in your mouth.
Canine teeth are critical in the following ways:
- Strength and Function – the canines, with the longest roots of any human teeth, function as very powerful biting teeth.
- “Bite” Alignment – upon closure of the jaw the upper and lower canine teeth are the first to reach contact serving to guide the remaining teeth into proper bite alignment.
- Last to Erupt – normally, the maxillary (upper) canines are the last of the “front” teeth to fully erupt and fall into place, often around age 13, closing unsightly gaps between the other upper teeth. Therefore missing or impacted canines can greatly affect the function and aesthetic appearance of the smile.
A dental examination will be done by your dentist around the age of seven years to count the teeth and determine if there are problems with eruption of the adult teeth. The exam will include the use of a panoramic x-ray and if necessary, a CBCT image.
Some common causes of impacted canines:
- Extra Teeth – if extra teeth are present, the eruption progress of the canine may be directly blocked by an extra tooth.
- Overcrowding – the existing teeth compete for space, which means that the canines do not have sufficient room to become functional.
- Unusual Growth – on rare occasions, unusual growth on the soft tissue of the gums can restrict the progress of canine teeth, which can cause impactions.
If canine teeth are missing, or are very slow in fully erupting, your dentist may recommend consultation with an orthodontist and also an oral surgeon for possible treatment options.