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  • Danielle Godley

Understanding Impacted Canines

Updated: May 20

Impacted canines

Impacted teeth can pose great challenges for dentists and orthodontists to treat. An impacted tooth is one that is at high risk or has already become stuck or "lost" in the jaw bone. Teeth that become impacted can affect the bite, smile esthetics, and can cause damage to surrounding teeth.

In addition to third molars (wisdom teeth), one of the more common teeth to become impacted are the maxillary canines. Maxillary canine teeth have the longest period of development, as well as the longest course to travel to erupt into the mouth. Impaction of these teeth occurs in approximately 2% of the population, and is more likely to occur in females. Mandibular (lower) canines can also become impacted, but this is less common.

Maxillary canines play an important role in proper occlusion and smile esthetics. When they fail to erupt properly, it can lead to various complications, including a malocclusion (misaligned bite), formation of a cyst or pathology, and poor smile esthetics.

Management of impacted maxillary canines may require coordination between different types of dental specialists, such as an orthodontist, oral surgeon, and a periodontist, depending on the severity.

What Causes Maxillary Canine Impaction?

Although general factors such as endocrine deficiencies or diseases can contribute to tooth impaction, the most common causes for canine impactions are usually localized. They often occur due to one or more of the following factors:

  • severe crowding

  • tooth-size imbalance

  • primary (baby) canine teeth that do not fall out on time or are lost too early

  • abnormal position of the developing canine tooth bud

  • presence of a cleft

  • ankylosis (fusion to the bone)

  • formation of a cyst or pathology

  • dilaceration (angulation) of the tooth root

  • missing maxillary lateral incisor

  • variation in maxillary incisor tooth anatomy

  • idiopathic condition with no apparent cause

As you can see, the multifactorial causes of impacted maxillary canines may explain why they can occur when the bite or tooth alignment appears to be completely normal. This is why it is so important for children to have an orthodontic examination and a dental team to monitor tooth development as they grow.

What are the Risks of Impacted Canines?

Risks of canine tooth impaction include:

  • malpositioning of the impacted tooth

  • space loss

  • internal resorption (dissolving of the tooth)

  • cyst formation

  • root resorption (damage) of surrounding teeth

  • gum recession

  • infection

  • pain

Prevention and Management of Maxillary Canine Impaction

When your dentist or orthodontist detects early signs of a canine that is not developing properly, attempts can be made to prevent the tooth from becoming impacted.

  1. Early Detection and Monitoring Regular dental check-ups, especially while kids are growing and have a mix of baby teeth and adult teeth, are essential for early detection of potential impaction. It is recommended kids have an exam by an orthodontist by age 7.

  2. Dental Intervention Management may include removal of the primary (baby) canine teeth. This can "signal" to the permanent canine teeth where they belong to help guide their eruption.

  3. Interceptive Orthodontic Treatment Early orthodontic treatment to create additional space can help facilitate eruption of the impacted teeth. Sometimes called "Phase I," this treatment may include a maxillary expander, early braces or aligners, opening extra space, and space maintenance.

  4. Surgical Intervention In cases where tooth impaction is severe, surgical exposure of the tooth may be necessary. Orthodontic treatment can then guide and align the impacted canine tooth into its proper position.


Impacted maxillary canines present dental and orthodontic challenges. Detecting signs of potential impaction early, prevention, and intervention when necessary, are essential in managing impacted teeth and preserving dental health, function and esthetics. If you have any questions about impacted teeth, don't hesitate to reach out to our team at Godley Family Orthodontics.


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