Normally when your child is missing a tooth, it’s because they’ve lost one of their baby teeth and are waiting for the adult version to erupt and complete their precious smile. But what if one of their permanent teeth never appears at all? What does it mean, and what can you do about it? Read on to learn more about your little one’s missing pearly whites and how dental implants or another restoration could help fill the gap.
Why are Some People Born Without Teeth?
Almost a fifth of adults have at least one permanent tooth that never appeared and isn’t just trapped under the gums. Such teeth are known as congenitally missing teeth. Normally, the absent tooth is one of the lateral incisors (which are on either side of your front teeth) or one of the second premolars (between the first premolars and the molars at the very back of the mouth).
Congenitally missing teeth are typically a family trait. The genes for the condition are passed down from parent to child, but they’re ultimately harmless (aside from the dental consequences of not having a full set of teeth). However, sometimes the empty space in your little one’s grin may be a side effect of Down syndrome, a cleft lip, or another potentially severe health issue.
What Happens If the Space in Your Child’s Smile Isn’t Filled In?
Growing up with a gap that the other children might make fun of is hard enough, but sadly that’s not the only way your little one could suffer thanks to congenitally missing teeth. Their remaining teeth could move into the empty space, causing orthodontic problems and becoming more difficult to clean (and, as a result, increasing their risk of decay and gum disease). Also, your child’s jaw may start to degenerate without the stimulation of all their teeth, and that could have a dire impact on their appearance and oral health in the future.
So What Can You Do About Missing Teeth?
Your child’s dentist can help you choose a restoration that can take the place of your child’s missing teeth, allowing them to smile, eat, and speak normally. A dental bridge or partial dentures are often good choices, but the best option for replacing teeth is normally dental implants; not only do they help preserve the jawbone, but unlike other restorations, they can last thirty years or longer with minimal maintenance!
It’s important to monitor the development of your child’s mouth so that you can make an appointment as soon as you have reason to think they might be congenitally missing a tooth. The sooner the gap is closed, the sooner your little one can enjoy the benefits of life with a full grin!
About the Author
Dr. Kelly Blair is a native of Texas and received her Doctorate of Dental Surgery degree from the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. At her Fort Worth practice, she enjoys the opportunity to help patients of all ages and offers dental implants, dental bridges and dentures for children and adults alike who are missing some of their teeth. To schedule an appointment, visit her website or call (817) 737-5155.