The term "impacted" when referring to teeth simply means that the tooth is stuck and unable to erupt through the skin. The most common of the teeth to become impacted are the wisdom teeth or third molars. Since the wisdom teeth do not really serve a valuable function they are often simply extracted if impaction occurs. The second most common tooth to become impacted is the maxillary canine (upper canine). The canine teeth play an important role in your oral function and a critical role in your bite.
The canine teeth have the longest roots of all human teeth and function as the strongest biting teeth. The canine is designed to be the first of the teeth to touch when you bite down and they thus guide the rest of the mouth into position. The maxillary canines are generally the last of the permanent teeth to erupt, usually coming into place around age 13. When they erupt they will shift any additional space that is left together.
An impacted tooth (of any sort) can cause a wide array of problems. Most commonly an impacted tooth will cause pain, discomfort, inflammation and even infection.
What to Do About an Impacted Canine
If you have an impacted canine, you should visit your Lake Norman Oral and Facial Surgeon at your earliest convenience to discuss your options. Your dentist will make every effort possible to coax the canines to erupt. Techniques that your dentist might suggest can be applied to the upper or lower canines, but typically are used more often on the maxillary (or upper) canines.
Sixty percent of impacted canines are located on the palatal (roof of the mouth) and the remaining tend to be impacted in the middle of supporting bone in an elevated position that prevents them from erupting.
The key to successful treatment of an impacted canine is early recognition. The earlier you and your dentist determine that you have an impact canine(s) the better the odds that techniques used to get the tooth to erupt will work. The American Association of Orthodontics recommends that all children around the age of seven undergo specific x-rays in an attempt to count the incoming teeth and determine whether or not impaction is a threat. If an impacted canine is allowed to grow to a certain point (usually around age 13 or 14) the odds of it erupting are slim to none.
Treatment for Impacted Canines
If you have an impacted canine your orthodontist, together with an oral surgeon, will make every effort to manipulate the tooth to erupting on its own. In some cases, these efforts fail, in which case treatment is needed to prevent future complications. The most common treatment for an impacted canine involves an orthodontist placing braces on the surrounding teeth to make room for the tooth to erupt. If eruptions still does not occur, you will be referred to an oral surgeon to have the impacted canine surgically exposed and then bracketed into place. If there is a baby tooth present it will be removed at the same time.