There are good reasons, for both health and appearance, to replace a missing tooth with a dental implant or similar restoration as soon as is practical. The bone around a tooth socket diminishes the longer it remains empty, up to 25% the first year. And, of course, your smile is less attractive, especially with a highly visible tooth.
If it’s your teenager, though, you may need to wait on a permanent restoration because their jaws are still developing. An implant placed before completion of jaw development could eventually appear out of alignment with neighboring teeth.
Our biggest concern is protecting bone health at the site of the missing tooth. We can do this and encourage growth by placing bone grafts (processed minerals from another donor) that serve as scaffolds on which surrounding bone can grow. Grafts usually dissolve (resorb) over time, but the rate of resorption can be slowed for a younger patient in need of long-term bone growth.
Planned orthodontic treatment can usually go on as scheduled. The orthodontist may accommodate the tooth loss by adding a temporary tooth within the braces or other device that matches the color and shape of the patient’s natural teeth. The orthodontist will also take care to maintain the empty space for a future implant or other restoration.
A dental implant is considered the best option for a missing tooth, not only for its life-like appearance and durability, but also its ability to encourage bone maintenance. Timing, though, is essential for teenagers. As it grows, the upper jaw will tend to move forward and down. Natural teeth move with this growth; implants, though, are attached differently and won’t move with the jawbone. While the other teeth around them move, the implants can appear to shrink back resulting in an unattractive smile appearance. So waiting until the jaw has finished growing is important.
For most people, jaw growth finishes by age twenty-one for men, women usually faster, but each person is different. The dentist’s expertise and experience, coupled with comparisons of adult family members’ facial appearances, will help determine the right time to undertake a permanent restoration for the best outcome both for health and a permanent, attractive smile.
If you would like more information on treating teenagers with missing teeth, please contact us to schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Dental Implants for Teenagers.”
This is the story of a well-known man, fearless in most respects, who was afraid of the dentist. Even though his fears had resulted in neglect and serious damage to his teeth, modern dentistry and a talented dental team were able to restore his smile to health. If you share this fear, his story may inspire you to take action.
We're talking about William Perry, former defensive lineman and fullback for the Chicago Bears. Here is a man who could fearlessly face a football squad — but not a visit to the dentist. Nicknamed “The Refrigerator” for his 380-pound massive frame, Perry played for ten years in the NFL before retiring in 1994. Since retiring he founded and operated a construction company in South Carolina in addition to making celebrity appearances.
With his celebrity in mind, a team composed of a talented restorative dentist, implant surgeon, and lab technician agreed to give “The Fridge” a makeover. After discussing modern technology and virtually pain-free dentistry with him, they managed to overcome Perry's fears. “I had been in constant pain for many years and I neglected myself, not having had any dental care for over 20 years, not even emergency care. Unfortunately, as I grew older my teeth started to get loose,” Perry told an interviewer. He had lost many teeth and became known for his gap-toothed smile.
Perry had severe gum disease and many of his remaining teeth were loose. In the past his only option would have been a full set of dentures. But his new dental team was able to place dental implants (permanent tooth replacements) supporting fixed bridges. In most cases dental bridges are attached to healthy teeth, but in Perry's case the implants served as anchors for the bridges. They also stabilized his jawbone, which would otherwise “resorb” or melt away after his teeth were lost. This is important because it helps preserve the contours of his face.
After careful planning “The Fridge” had eight dental implants placed in his upper jaw and seven in his lower. The final bridgework was completed four months later. It turned out that even though the gap between his teeth had become his trademark, “the Fridge” never really liked it. He was thrilled with his new smile.
Even if you have some fears, don't hesitate to follow Perry's example and make an appointment with us for a consultation about dental implants, smile makeovers, or bridgework. For more information about William “The Refrigerator” Perry, see the Dear Doctor magazine article “How Immediate Implants Saved 'Refrigerator' Perry's Smile.”