Impacted Teeth

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.

Why Dental Implants?

A natural tooth consists of a root and a crown. If you compare natural teeth to implant-supported replacement teeth, you’ll see they have the same basic parts. Both have a crown (the visible part used for chew food). Both have a root that holds the tooth securely under the gum and is anchored in the jaw. The difference is that the implant is made of titanium, the element used extensively for artificial joint surgery. When you loose a tooth, you loose both the root and the crown. The implant is surgically placed into the jawbone where teeth are missing. This metal anchor acts as a tooth root substitute. The jawbone fuses with the implant, creating a secure platform for the prosthesis.

Implants involve coordination between the oral surgeon and the restoring dentist. Oral surgeons are called upon by dentists and dental specialists to perform all procedures within the implant process except the final restoration process. The restorative dentist (your dentist) fits and makes the permanent prosthesis. Your dentist may also make a temporary prosthesis for your esthetics during this process. During the consultation the oral surgeon will be able to describe the extent of his role in the implant process and even help you secure a restoring dentist if you do not have one.

Oral Examination

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.

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