Teenagers aren't immune to tooth loss. While adults usually lose teeth to disease, accidents and injuries are the main cause of tooth loss for individuals under 20.
Fortunately, teens can take advantage of the same tooth replacement restorations as adults. There's one notable exception, though: dental implants. Because adolescent jaws are still developing, an implant placed in the midst of this developmental period may look out of place after a few years because the implant won't move while the jaws are still growing down and forward. It's best for teenagers to avoid implants until their jaws have fully matured sometime in their early twenties.
In the meantime, there are a few things we can do to help your teenager with missing teeth.
Protect the underlying bone. Bone loss often occurs after losing teeth. Normally, chewing action stimulates bone cell growth to replace older cells that have died. We lose this stimulus connected with any lost teeth, causing the bone growth rate to slow and even lag behind. To prevent this, we can place grafting material within the empty tooth socket to encourage continued bone growth.
Go ahead with orthodontic treatment. A missing tooth doesn't necessarily mean postponing needed bite correction. In fact, because teeth around a tooth gap tend to drift into it, some form of orthodontics may be necessary to protect the space for a future implant. An orthodontist may also be able to help with your teen's smile appearance while they're wearing braces by affixing an artificial tooth within the orthodontic appliance.
Consider a temporary restoration. Your teen doesn't have to endure a “toothless” smile while awaiting implants. Two good, affordable options for temporary tooth replacement are a partial denture or a bonded (Maryland) bridge. Similar to a traditional bridge, a bonded bridge uses strips of dental material that attach the artificial tooth to the tongue side of the adjacent teeth with a bonding agent. Later these restorations can be removed to make way for placement of a dental implant.
The key to restoring missing teeth for teenagers is timing—waiting for the right moment to place an implant while protecting the supporting bone in the meantime. With a little patience, your teen's smile and dental function will eventually improve.
If you would like more information on dental restoration for teens, please contact us or 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.”