Anatomy & Organs

Canines – structure, function & diseases


The canine tooth (Dens caninus) is located in front of the premolars and behind the incisors , whereby the name refers to the kink that the dental arch makes at this point.

What are canines?

The canine is colloquially referred to as “eye tooth” because inflammation causes pressure pain or redness under the eye .

Every human has a total of four canine teeth, which are in the third position. In the front tooth area, it is the largest tooth that can already be found in the milk teeth. The permanent canines then erupt around the age of 11, with the lower ones usually appearing before the upper ones.

Anatomy & Structure

The canine has a root in which a rim can be found. The root of the tooth is slightly flattened. A clear root feature is the opital curvature on the upper canines. The roots of the upper canines are also longer than the lower ones.Instead of a chewing surface, the canine has only a tip (also called a cusp tip) that has two cutting edges. The vestibular surfaces consist of two parts: a distal (back) half and a mesial (front) half. These are separated by a median that runs vertically. Canines are spherical in shape and slightly curved from the incisal edge to the neck of the tooth. The tip of the canine is not exactly in the middle but is shifted slightly mesially.

The mesial incisal edge is shorter and steeper compared to the distal edge, and there are two marginal ridges and a central ridge on the back of the crown, which meet in a so-called tuberculum (hump). The upper canine teeth are also larger than the lower teeth. Their crown axis is also somewhat “bent”, which is referred to as a “crown curse”.

Function & Tasks

The canines form the transition between the front and side teeth. They have the task of holding or tearing food. When biting, the region of the canine tooth is used instinctively, since the roots of the teeth are particularly strong. In general, the canines are the strongest teeth in the human dentition and act as a kind of “fangs” because they have an extremely sharp cutting edge.

The canines are also often referred to as “dog teeth” because they bear a certain resemblance to the canines of dogs. Similar to the dogs, the teeth are still used colloquially today as a “threatening gesture”. A wide variety of idioms such as ” show your teeth “, “feel on the tooth” or “grow a tooth” are derived from this. Since sharp tearing is no longer necessary due to the use of knife and fork or due to the wide variety of ways in which food is prepared, the canines have receded over time.


The following dental diseases can occur in canines:

Caries is a disease of the two tooth hard tissues dentin and tooth enamel . Initially, decalcifications form, which are white at first, but can then turn dark. As long as caries affects only the enamel layer, it can be remineralized. However, if the caries penetrates the tooth bone (dentine), toothache occurs.

Pulpitis is an inflammation of the tooth pulp (pulp) that occurs as a result of chemical, thermal and mechanical irritation. Those affected suffer from toothache, if the irritation persists, the inflammation can also become chronic. As part of an apical osteitis, the root tip of the tooth becomes inflamed. This is a bacterial infection because bacteria can get through the root canal to the root tip. Acute osteitis can be very painful, but sometimes the inflammation is painless. In addition, canines are often displaced and retained, the reason for this being a fairly late eruption period. In many children, the bonethen already fixed and the neighboring teeth have also already broken through.

If there is a lack of space, these then take the place of the canine. In some cases, the tooth erupts outside the row of teeth, very often lying transversely in the upper jawbone. Sometimes the canine tooth is also very high in the jawbone, so that a relatively long distance has to be covered before the tooth erupts. On the other hand, a non-availability of canines is extremely rare or not known. This occurs much more frequently with wisdom teeth or incisors. In adults, displaced and retained canines are very often surgically removed, and in adolescents the crown of the tooth is often exposed. After the wound has healed, this is then adjusted with the help of a bracket or a so-called orthodontic device.

In some cases it is also necessary to stretch the upper jaw to create more space. Malformations also occur in connection with cleft lip and palate . Normally, the cleft lip in the upper jaw runs between the second incisor and the canine tooth, but malformations can lead to adhesions, partial fusions or fusions.

If the rows of teeth are closed, then the lower and upper canines touch and during chewing movements there is a distance between the lower and upper chewing surfaces, which is referred to as “canine guidance”. Especially with dentures such as bridges and crowns, it is necessary to restore this canine guidance. In the case of complete dentures, however, no canine guidance is created, since the denture would otherwise tip over.

Typical & common dental diseases

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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.