The premature loss of a baby tooth due to an accident can be upsetting for both child and parent. But the earlier-than-anticipated loss needn't hinder your child's dental development. The adult tooth will still emerge, even though a prosthetic tooth or space maintainer (a wire loop with the same perimeter measurement as the tooth) can be needed. This keeps the teeth on both sides from tilting into the unexpected gap, which ensures the healthy eruption of your child's adult tooth. Now, what happens when a child reaches their teenage years and loses one of their permanent teeth?
A Jaw Connection
Most prosthetic teeth (and this includes dental appliances like dental bridges or dentures) rest on the oral mucosa (the soft lining of the mouth's interior). These prosthetic teeth don't connect to the jaw. Dental implants are different. The implant (a small screw made of titanium) is inserted into the jaw during implantation surgery, carried out under local anesthetic. As it heals, the jawbone grows around the implant, integrating it so it's essentially part of the bone.
Artificial Tooth Root
Once integrated with the bone, the implant functions as an artificial tooth root, able to handle the bite pressure of a natural tooth. The prosthetic tooth will look perfectly realistic, will be made of porcelain, and will be attached to the implant once your jaw has appropriately healed. So far, so good. So is this what your dentist will recommend for your teen's missing adult tooth?
Age Is Considered
Suitability for a dental implant depends on the health of the patient's jaw, their gum tissues, and overall dental health. But age is also considered. A younger child's jaw has not finished growing. The placement of a dental implant in a developing jaw may cause a few problems. The implant will have a fixed position relative to other teeth. As your child's jaw grows, a dental implant would exert significant pressure on other teeth, gradually pushing them out of alignment. A dental implant can only be placed in a full-grown jaw, and this is by about your child's mid to late teens. Your teen's jaw may already have achieved the minimum physical development required for an implant.
A Temporary Substitute
If your teen's age prevents dental implant placement for the moment, a dentist can fit a temporary cosmetic substitute. This is called a dental flipper, which is a single prosthetic tooth mounted on a gum-like base. The tooth is secured to the teeth on either side using small clasps. The flipper will be replaced with an implant at a later stage. But if your dentist has determined that your child's jaw has in fact fully developed, no temporary alternative will be needed, and dental implant surgery can be scheduled.
A dental implant is the most practical solution for a missing tooth, provided the patient's jaw has finished its physical development. For more information on dental implants, contact a professional near you.