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Canine Teeth Exposure

What are Canine Teeth?

We have two canine teeth in each upper and lower jaw. They are the sharpest teeth and resemble ‘fangs’ in dogs, from which they take their name. They are in line with the corner of the mouth and thus pivotal to cosmetics. This is why dentists and orthodontists like to correct their position if possible.

Normally, the adult canine teeth in the upper jaw or maxilla appear in the mouth between the ages of 11 and 13 years. This is known as eruption. Just before this time, they can usually be felt as bumps on the gum. Sometimes canine teeth develop in the wrong position for normal appearance or function. This can be due to a discrepancy in the size, number or alignment of some or all of our teeth. Early loss of ‘baby’ (deciduous) teeth also can be a contributory factor. The canine tooth that is held back from eruption is said to be impacted. Other teeth, particularly wisdom teeth, may also be impacted.

What to do about an Impacted Canine?

Dentists and orthodontists usually detect a problem with the canine teeth in children around the ages of 10-14 years, which is a time when they will recommend treatment. This is ideal as the tooth is still not fully developed.

The treatment options for impacted or misplaced canines will depend on the type and severity of the affected canine teeth as well as the alignment of the adjacent teeth.

Before attending these Rooms, your dentist or orthodontist would have diagnosed, investigated, arranged x-rays, and explained the over-all treatment plan to you.

We will discuss where surgery may fit into this plan candidly and will schedule the appropriate operation for you. It is possible for an untreated impacted canine tooth to just remain buried and give you no more problems.

It can equally lead to problems such as:

  • The tooth continuing to grow behind the other teeth in the roof of the mouth. This can cause crowding of the front teeth.
  • Some impacted canines might damage adjacent teeth by ‘eating away’ part of their roots. This is called resorption.
  • The baby canine tooth may eventually be lost leaving you with a gap.
  • Sometimes a cyst may form around the crown of the buried tooth and this may push other teeth out of position.
  • It may partly erupt in a wrong position and then gradually decay due to poor access for mouth hygiene.

Surgical Management of Impacted Canine Teeth?

There are several options for the surgical treatment of impacted canines:

  • Exposure is intended to bring part of the tooth into the mouth allowing your orthodontist to move it into correct alignment. This can be an option only if the buried tooth is in a reasonable alignment
  • Removal may be appropriate when the buried tooth is in a poor position for orthodontic re-alignment, or you have chosen not to proceed with orthodontics. The space can be corrected by placement of an implant, sometimes even in the same operation.
  • Transplantation of the buried tooth is possible if it is not yet fully-mature and good access for its safe removal is possible. During the operation the deciduous tooth is removed, space is created and the adult canine tooth is carefully positioned and secured.

What about the Operation?

The operation is performed under a general anaesthetic in the hospital. This mode of anaesthesia allows for you to be completely unconscious and consequently totally unaware of the procedure.

The operation involves lifting the soft tissue over the palate, and occasionally other areas of your mouth, to allow access to the bone overlying the tooth. This bone is then removed so that the crown of the canine tooth is found.

If it is to be removed it is simply divided and removed piece by piece in the interest of preserving the integrity of the adjacent teeth.

If an exposure is contemplated, the crown of the tooth is found and exposed in its entirety. In most instances I place a chain onto the tooth that the orthodontist can use to slowly pull the tooth into its correct place.

What to do now?

If you feel you are a candidate for this manner of surgery, arrange an appointment for a consultation. You should come with an OPG x-ray that would display your teeth, a summary of your medical history and a list of your medications as there may be interactions that you should be protected from. There is generally need for further X-Rays. We can arrange these for you.

You are encouraged to bring your friends and family along as they may have questions they may wish to have answered.