Impacted Canines

The Impact of Canines That Don’t Erupt

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Treating Impacted Canines to Protect Your Smile

An impacted canine is an upper maxillary tooth that fails to erupt in the appropriate position. Maxillary canine teeth are the second most frequent teeth to become impacted after wisdom teeth (third molars). Canine teeth are sometimes referred to as cuspid teeth or eyeteeth because of their direct positioning beneath your eyes. An estimated 1 to 2.5% of people worldwide experience impacted canine teeth. Although wisdom tooth extraction is advised nearly all the time because these teeth aren’t necessary for dental function, maxillary canine teeth play an important role in function and smile aesthetics. As a board-certified oral and maxillofacial surgeon, Dr. R Jonas Collins has vast expertise extracting teeth and treating impacted canines in Charlottesville and Waynesboro, VA.

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Canines are Essential Teeth

Maxillary canine teeth are the last of the front teeth to erupt, usually around age 13. Canines are extremely strong biting teeth with the longest roots of any human teeth. These teeth are essential to correct alignment and function of other teeth on the dental arch. Missing or impacted canines can greatly affect both the function and aesthetic appearance of your smile. As the last of the front teeth to erupt, canines close any unsightly gaps between other upper teeth. They play a vital role in your bite because they’re the first to touch when your jaw closes, thereby guiding other teeth into position.

Why Do Canine Teeth Get Impacted?

Research shows 60% percent of impacted canine teeth are located on the palatal (roof of the mouth) side of the dental arch. The remaining impacted canines are found in the middle of the supporting bone, stuck in an elevated position above the roots of the adjacent teeth, or out to the facial side of the dental arch. Underlying reasons for impacted canines include:
Canine teeth may not erupt due to blockage from extra teeth, baby teeth that don’t fall out, or because subsequent overcrowding leaves no room for the canine tooth to erupt.
In some cases, poor alignment causes existing teeth to compete for limited space, leading to insufficient room for canines to become functional.
Rarely, unusual growths on soft gum tissue can restrict the progress of canine teeth, which leads to later impaction.

When a patient is older than age 40, there is a high likelihood the canine tooth is fused in position.

Early Detection Improves Outcomes

The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that all patients receive a panoramic x-ray and dental examination by age 7. This is done to count teeth, see if any adult teeth are missing, and determine if any problems may arise when it comes time for adult teeth to erupt. This exam is usually performed by a general dentist or hygienist, but your child will be referred to an oral surgeon and or orthodontist if a problem is identified.

If no teeth are crowded, the impacted canine tooth may be able to erupt spontaneously, so a wait and monitor approach is recommended. When the eruption path is cleared and the space is opened up by ages 11-12, this increases the chance that the impacted canine will erupt. If the canine is allowed to develop under the surface extensively by ages 13-14, the impacted canine won’t erupt on its own, even with space cleared. When a patient is older than age 40, there is a high likelihood the canine tooth is fused in position. In such cases, the tooth won’t budge despite orthodontic and oral surgery methods. The only option at this point is to extract the impacted tooth and replace it with a dental implant or fixed bridge.

Treatment Options for Impacted Canines

If you have an impacted canine, our team uses CBCT imaging to accurately determine the position of your impacted canine to guide treatment decisions. When the impacted canine has no room to erupt, early treatment between the ages of 10 and 13 involves extracting the baby tooth to encourage spontaneous eruption of the impacted canine. Dr. Collins frequently gets referrals from other dentists to treat impacted canines in Waynesboro and Charlottesville, VA. He has extensive experience extracting over-retained baby teeth, select adult teeth, and or extra teeth that are blocking eruption of canines. Although the simplest approach to encourage eruption of adult canines is baby tooth extraction, this isn’t always effective. Surgical exposure of the impacted canine tooth is a common method to assist natural eruption. Once your child is properly sedated, we lift the gum tissue on top of their impacted tooth to expose it, extract the baby tooth if present, then suture back their gums.
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Postsurgical Tips

Some bleeding or redness in saliva is normal during the first 24 hours following impacted tooth exposure in Charlottesville and Waynesboro, VA. In order to ensure proper healing and reduce pain, it’s important to follow these tips on the day of surgery:

Following Days

You’ll return to our office 7-10 days after surgery so Dr. Collins can evaluate the healing process and make sure your child is maintaining good oral hygiene.

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