Normally, the maxillary canine (“eye tooth”) is the last of the “front” teeth to erupt into place. They usually come into place around age 11.
An impacted canine is a tooth that is prevented from growing into its normal position due to other teeth, the lack of growth of the jawbone, or simply failing to pierce through the gums. They are the second most common impacted teeth in the jaw and play an important role in your “bite”. If a canine tooth gets impacted, every effort is made to get it to erupt into its proper position in the dental arch.
A panorex screening x-ray along with a dental examination may be performed on all dental patients at around the age of 7 years to count the teeth and determine if there are problems with eruption of the adult teeth.
Early recognition of impacted canine is the key to successful treatment. The orthodontist and the oral and maxillofacial surgeon work together to get these un-erupted canines to erupt.
The oral and maxillofacial surgeon sometimes will or may need to remove any extra teeth (supernumerary teeth) or growths that are blocking eruption of any of the adult teeth. If the eruption path is cleared and the space is opened up by age 11 or 12, there is a good chance the impacted canine will erupt with nature’s help alone. If the canine is allowed to develop too much (age 13-14), the impacted canine will not erupt by itself even with the space cleared for its eruption.
Once sufficient space is created by your orthodontist, the surgeon in a simple surgical procedure performed in the office, the gum on top of the impacted tooth will be lifted up to expose the hidden tooth underneath. If there is a baby tooth present, it will be removed at the same time. Once the tooth is exposed, the oral and maxillofacial surgeon will bond an orthodontic bracket to the exposed tooth. The bracket will have a miniature gold chain attached to it.
Shortly after surgery (1-2 weeks) the patient will return to the orthodontist. A rubber band will be attached to the chain to put a light eruptive pulling force on the impacted tooth. This will begin the process of moving the tooth into its proper place in the dental arch. This is a carefully controlled, slow process that may take up to a full year to complete. Remember, the goal is to erupt the impacted tooth and not to extract it!