Last but not least in our Get To Know Your Teeth series are the canines — those pointed teeth in the corners of your mouth. The name “canine” might make you think of man’s best friend, and that’s because they bear such a strong resemblance to the long, pointed teeth dogs have. Other names for these teeth are cuspids, fangs, and eye teeth. However, canines are the most common moniker.
There are four canines in the mouth, two on the top and two on the bottom. They sit beside the incisors and before the bicuspids and play a support function to both. Alongside the incisors, the long, pointed cusp of the canines help tear and grasp into food and help break it down into smaller pieces. The canines also help push the food back towards the bicuspids and molars, which break down the food further so it can be swallowed.
Canines are very strong and, like the bicuspids, help support the lips and keep them from folding inward. They’re also the first teeth to touch when closing your mouth and play a crucial role in keeping your bite aligned properly. Because of their placement in the front of the mouth, these teeth are prone to staining and tartar buildup. They also show when you smile, making it even more important to keep these teeth clean and bright!
There are a few common problems particular to the canines. First and foremost, canines can become impacted, which means they don’t erupt properly and can stay stuck too high up in the jaw. This condition is most commonly seen in the upper canines, but it can occur in the lower as well. Braces can help fix the issue in young children by creating more space for the canines to descend, but for older people extraction will likely be necessary.
Severe tongue thrust can also push the canines out of alignment, which can affect speech and the ability to chew properly. Braces can fix the alignment, and there are lots of physical exercises you can to to prevent your tongue from pushing outward.
That’s it! You now have a thorough education on all your different teeth — molars, bicuspids, incisors and canines. All of these teeth serve an important function in your mouth, so it’s important to know how they work and how to properly take care of them. Do you have a question about your canines or any other tooth? Let us know in the comments!