During dental development, one or more teeth may become blocked from eruption. Third molars, "wisdom teeth," are commonly known to become impacted and unable to erupt. This usually occurs between 16-20 years of age. Additionally, many teeth often become displaced or ectopically erupt in the wrong position. Dental radiographs (panoramic, periapical, and/or occlusal films) are utilized as diagnostic tools to identify these teeth. Impacted or ectopic teeth can be threatening, and potentially damaging, to adjacent teeth and approximating root surfaces.
Most patients are unaware of teeth that are ectopic and impacted until diagnosed by their dentist or orthodontist. Our office treats many patients with teeth that are impacted, ectopic, or both. Most common are the upper cuspids, "eye teeth," which may be angularly erupting and displaced either high in the vestibule above the front teeth or on the palate.
Impacted and/or ectopic upper cuspids are retrievable most of the time and brought into the dental arch through a multi-disciplined and coordinated effort with our office, your dentist, and/or an oral surgeon. Following a consultation to discuss findings from the diagnostic records, the orthodontist will place upper braces (a limited number) prior to the necessary surgical uncovering procedure. The oral surgeon will secure a bracket on the uncovered tooth. Often, an attached chain or traction line is coupled with the bracket for use by the orthodontist. Three to seven days following the surgical uncovering, traction will be applied to the impacted tooth to begin pulling it into the desired location. Appointments during this time are frequent as the force applied requires re-activation. The process customarily lasts six to twelve months.
Rarely ectopic or impacted upper cuspids are ankylosed (fused to the jaw bone) or horizontally impacted. These teeth are usually removed, followed either by space closure, implants, or other prosthetic procedures.