There are only a few teeth that are known by nicknames. The big, late-blooming third molars (“wisdom teeth”) are one set; another set is the sharply-pointed canines, also called the “eyeteeth”. These two sets of teeth have something else in common: They can both suffer from the failure to develop in the proper place. Impacted wisdom teeth are a well known problem; impacted canines, however, are an issue that’s seen less frequently — but can often be effectively treated without extraction (removal).
What does the term “impacted” mean? In dental terminology, it indicates a tooth that is growing in a position where it can’t erupt (grow in to the bite) properly. This sometimes happens in cases where the bite is “crowded” — that is, where there isn’t enough space in the jaw for all of the teeth to develop properly. An impacted tooth remains “buried” to some extent in the tissues of the gums and jaw. It may eventually cause various problems with the roots of neighboring teeth, or even form a cyst (fluid-filled sac). That’s why treatment of impacted teeth is so important.
Impacted third molars (wisdom teeth) are generally removed (extracted), and are rarely missed. Canines, however, are located near the front of the mouth, forming an important component of an aesthetically pleasing smile. Therefore, whenever possible, it’s preferable to bring these teeth into good alignment with the rest of the smile rather than remove them. How is this done?
The process begins with a series of radiographic images (x-rays or CT scans) that show the exact positions of the affected teeth. Next, a minor surgical procedure, performed under local anesthesia, is used to expose the crowns (surfaces) of the impacted teeth. Then, a bracket is bonded to the surface of the tooth, which can be attached to orthodontic appliances. These appliances will, in time, move the tooth into a better position.
Impacted canines can be a serious problem — but the good news is that, with the proper treatment, it’s often possible to bring them into alignment with the rest of your smile. If you would like more information about treating impacted canine teeth, call our office for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Exposing Impacted Canines.”