Archives for June 2013

Dental MythBuster #8 – Having an Eye Tooth Pulled Will Cause Blindness

I have only come across this dental myth a couple of times in my career. But this fable is out there and some people actually believe it! In this Dental MythBuster, we bust the following crazy myth:

Having an eye tooth (canine) pulled will lead to blindness

Let’s explore how this dental myth originated and then we will thoroughly debunk it.

Why a Canine tooth is called a Canine

Lower canine teeth on a dog

Long lower canines on a dog. Photo courtesy Flickr Creative Commons.

Before we explore this myth, we need to understand why a canine is often called an eye tooth. But even before that, why is a canine tooth called a canine? A canine, also called a cuspid, earned its name because of the resemblance to the long, sharp canine tooth of a dog.

Now unless your last name is Dracula, your canines do not look like the dog on the right. If you look at your own teeth in the mirror, you should see slightly sharpened tips on both your upper and lower canines. And they are also in the same approximate position as the canines in a dog. So for all these reasons, those teeth are called canines.

Why Canines are Called Eye Teeth

Canine is called an eye tooth on this photo because you draw a line from the canine to the eye

Upper canine with a line drawn towards her left eye.

When you smile, your upper canine is oriented in such a way that a line drawn along the long axis intersects with your eye on the same side. This is true for most people. If you can see a prominent tip on your own canines you should try to visualize this on yourself.

The photograph to the left demonstrates this nicely with a red line going from the canine towards the mid point of the left eye. We could do the same on her right side too.

It is because of this anatomical orientation and relationship that a canine is called an eye tooth.

Removal of a Canine and Blindness?

So how did this myth originate? I have three theories:

Photo of a canine or eye tooth for the dental mythbuster on how losing an eye tooth causes blindness

Loss of this tooth leading to blindness? I don’t think so!

  • Since a canine is called an eye tooth, you could incorrectly assume that removal would lead to loss of sight in that eye.
  • The nerves and blood vessels supplying the eye tooth are similar in location and origin to those supplying the eye. You could incorrectly conclude that if you remove the tooth, the nerves and blood vessels going to the eye would be removed too.

These two theories don’t make a lot of sense. But, I suppose some people could have believed them at one point. My final theory is based on a fact:

  • In the era before antibiotics and modern medicine, upper tooth infections often did spread to the eye as well as the brain, leading to blindness and death in some cases.

This fact could also lead people to incorrectly believe that loss of the canine could make you go blind.

Dental Myth Busted!

The three theories posted above show why people may have incorrectly believed in this myth. But you can’t hide from the truth, which is:

There is no physiological relationship between an upper canine and the eye that would cause blindness upon removal of that tooth.

There are consequences to tooth loss but none of them involve your eyesight. In my practice in Orange, CT, I always recommend a dental implant when a patient is going to lose a tooth. But my treatment recommendation is based on facts and not on hearsay, and certainly not on a dental myth like this!

I hope you enjoyed this latest Dental MythBuster.