People commonly associate the phrase “impacted teeth” with the wisdom teeth, or third molars. Although those teeth are more likely to be impacted, or to get stuck in the gums or bone and to be not able to erupt fully, they aren’t the only the teeth that can have a problem.
The canine teeth, or the cuspids, are the second most commonly impacted teeth in the mouth. Unlike the wisdom teeth, the canine teeth play a pretty important role when it comes to your ability to chew food. Since the teeth are so important, your dentist and oral surgeon will take a different approach to them if they prove to be impacted.
The Canine Teeth
Also known as the cuspids, or in some cases, the eye teeth or dog teeth, the canines are the pointy teeth that come in one over from the two front teeth. Usually, the teeth are pointy and they typically have the longest roots of all the teeth in the mouth. The cuspids on the upper row of the teeth are usually the last adult teeth to come in.
The canine teeth help tear and grind food. They play an important role in the mouth, as they protect the surrounding teeth from wear and tear when you eat chewy or otherwise tough foods. Although people usually get by pretty well without their wisdom teeth, going through life without the canines can be a bit more challenging.
On the upper row of teeth, one or both of the canine teeth can be impacted for several reasons. There might not be enough room for the tooth to come in on its own, and it gets stuck in the gums. Alternatively, the tooth might be coming in at an unusual angle, making it more challenging for it to properly erupt.
In many cases, a person won’t necessarily know he or she has an impacted canine tooth without a dental examination. Usually, a dentist will take an X-ray of a patient’s mouth when that person is still a child, around age 7 or 8. At that time, a dentist is able to see if the cuspid is impacted and make a plan to correct the situation.
Depending on the child’s age and the state of his or her teeth, braces might be all that are needed. The braces reposition existing teeth, creating more room in the child’s mouth for the cuspid. If adjusting the spacing of the teeth isn’t enough to correct the issue, oral surgery to remove any remaining baby teeth or even to remove less essential permanent teeth might be in order.
As the canine teeth are the last to come in, usually if any problems are corrected by age 12, the teeth will come in fine on their own. But, if additional teeth aren’t removed until a patient is older, the tooth might need a bit of assistance coming in.
The process of coaxing a canine tooth into position is known as exposure. During the procedure, an oral surgeon will lift up the gum covering the tooth. A small orthodontic bracket is attached to the tooth, along with a thin chain. The chain is also attached to a rubber band, which helps pull the tooth out of the gums and into position. Canine exposure isn’t a quick process; it usually takes about a year for the tooth to fully emerge.
Recovering From Surgery
Usually, a patient will want to avoid chewing near the area of the exposed canine for several weeks after treatment, to give the gum tissue time to heal. Otherwise, the recovery after the surgery is pretty quick. If a patient has any discomfort, he or she can take pain relievers as recommended by the oral surgeon. Any stitches are usually removed about two weeks after the procedure and the patient can resume a good oral care routine, including brushing and flossing, soon after surgery.
When it comes to the canine teeth, the sooner a patient sees a dentist and oral surgeon the better. Although canine exposure might be unavoidable in many cases, many younger patients can benefit from repositioning the teeth or from removing any teeth that are blocking the way. At the practice of Gallardo and Lamas, Dr. Juan Arroyo performs surgery to remove or correct impacted teeth and, when needed, to expose the canine teeth. If your child is having trouble with the eruption of his or her cuspids, book an appointment with Dr. Arroyo today. Call (305) 447-1447 to learn more about your options.