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Humans have two upper (maxillary) canines and two lower (mandibular) canines. Canine teeth are sometimes referred to as cuspids, fangs, or “eye teeth” because of their direct positioning beneath the eyes. Canine teeth have thicker and more conical roots than incisors and thus have an especially firm connection to the jaw. Canine teeth have the longest roots of all teeth in the mouth and are the last to fully erupt.
An impacted tooth essentially means that it is blocked, stuck, or unable to fully erupt and function properly. Third molars (wisdom teeth) most commonly fall victim to impaction, but the upper canine is the second most common tooth to become impacted. Wisdom teeth serve no important function in the mouth and are frequently removed; however, impacted canines are a more critical issue and require treatment for the following reasons:
Closing Gaps – Canines are the last of the front teeth to erupt into place and therefore close any gaps between the other upper teeth.
First Touch – Canines play a vital role in the “biting” mechanism of the teeth. They touch first when the jaw closes, and guide the other teeth into position.
Proper Alignment & Function – Canine teeth are essential to the correct alignment and function of the other teeth on the dental arch. Missing or impacted canines can greatly affect the function and aesthetic appearance of the smile.
Strength - Because canines have the longest roots of all of the teeth, they provide excellent support for future dental restorations, should they ever become necessary.
What causes canine teeth to become impacted?
There are several main causes for impacted canine teeth:
Extra Teeth – If extra teeth are present, the natural eruption of the canine teeth may be inhibited. The eruption progress of the canine may be directly blocked by an extra tooth or the subsequent overcrowding might leave no room on the dental arch for the canine.
Overcrowding – In some cases, poor alignment of the front teeth can lead to overcrowding. The existing teeth compete for space which means that the canines do not have sufficient room to become functional.
Unusual Growths – On rare occasions, unusual growths of the soft tissue or surrounding bone can restrict the progress of canine teeth, which leads to impaction.
Early and thorough examination of the teeth can prevent problems with impacted canines. The older the patient becomes, the less likely it is that an impacted canine tooth will erupt naturally. If canine teeth are impacted, a surgical procedure can be performed to aid in their eruption. This procedure is usually done in conjunction with an orthodontist.