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Permanent tooth loss at any age greatly affects long-term oral health. But because their jaw and facial structures are still developing, it’s particularly consequential for adolescents. Add to that any planned orthodontic treatment, and a little extra care is warranted when a teenager loses a tooth.
The biggest concern is potential bone loss caused by the missing tooth. Because the mouth structures are still developing, bone loss can be especially problematic for any future restorations of missing teeth. One of the best ways to slow or stop bone loss is to surgically insert bone-grafting material at the time of an extraction. Bone grafts act as scaffolds that the body builds natural bone upon; eventually the natural bone completely replaces the graft material.
When it comes to the matter of orthodontics, the treatment plan will be to either close the space so that future tooth replacement isn’t necessary or maintain the space for future tooth replacement. If the choice is the latter, the orthodontist will maintain enough space during installation of the braces for future replacement. In the meantime, the orthodontist can install temporary, color-matched tooth replacements within the braces to cover the gap. After the braces have been removed, artificial crowns may also be incorporated into the retainers for a more natural appearance until receiving a permanent replacement.
The best choice for that permanent replacement is a dental implant, a “stand-alone” system that encourages bone maintenance and doesn’t interfere or impact adjacent teeth. The only real question for adolescents is when to install the implants.
The mouth’s structural development doesn’t conclude until early adulthood: in males around ages 20, and in females typically a year or so earlier. Your dentist will evaluate your adolescent’s growth and development to determine if he or she is ahead or behind the growth curve. Natural teeth grow and develop along with the corresponding bone growth, but implants are artificial devices that don’t “grow” with the natural bone. It’s important, therefore, to postpone an implant installation until the jaw structure has fully developed — if done too early, the implant crown’s length won’t appear to be proportionally right (especially in relation to natural teeth) as the jaw continues to grow.
If you would like more information on dental implants for teenagers, 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.”
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.”