If you are a parent with teenage children, you know that the “growing pains” of adolescence come in a variety of forms. Oral health is no exception and the angst isn’t limited to self-consciousness over braces.
During puberty, a teenager’s teeth and jaws are still growing along with the rest of their body. Although it varies depending on the individual, most people‘s jaws do not stop growing until they reach their late teens. Males, however, may experience growth up through their early 20s.
The fact that the jaws and teeth continue growing throughout adolescence becomes problematic when tooth loss occurs. Regardless of whether the tooth or teeth are lost due to injury, decay, or some kind of developmental abnormality, most dentists and periodontists will advise against replacing a teenager’s missing tooth with a dental implant. Although implants have an extremely high success rate and are now considered the preferred tooth replacement solution for adults, it’s too risky to perform the procedure on teenagers since there’s no dependable biologic marker to establish when they have finished growing.
Tooth loss can be traumatic at any age, but especially so if it occurs during adolescence. They may have trouble understanding why they can’t just replace the missing tooth with a dental implant, especially if they lost a front tooth and the gap is affecting their smile. It is important to communicate the medical reasons behind the decision and explain possible complications that can result from placing an implant before teeth and jaws have stopped growing.
As they grow, the upper jaw may begin moving outward and downward and the accompanying teeth go with it. Since dental implants attach to the bone differently than natural teeth, implants placed before growth has fully ceased won’t move with the jawbone. They will stay moored to the adjacent teeth, which can cause them to look as if they’re sinking into the bone below the gum line. Placing implants too early could result in teeth that look extra-long and detract from the beauty of their smile.
Although they’ll have to wait for dental implants, there are other tooth replacement options that can restore the comfort and aesthetic appeal of their smile during this transitional period. Your dentist can help you and your teen select the right one for his or her needs.