As many parents already know, children are not immune to tooth loss or the problems associated with it. The loss of baby teeth is natural, of course, and their teeth will soon replace them. But what if an accident, tooth decay or gum disease causes one of these new teeth to be lost? Can these teeth be replaced? Are dental implants an option for children?
Unfortunately, the answer is not so simple. Children are not good candidates for dental implants, at least not until well into their teen years. Let’s explain.
A child’s jawbone continues to grow and develop from childhood through adolescence. Even though permanent teeth grow in during this time, they are able to shift and develop with the growing jawbone in a way that implants cannot. If a child receives a dental implant too early, it can affect the growth of the jawbone itself and adversely affect how the new teeth come in, causing all sorts of unwanted long-term complications. For these reasons, an oral surgeon will not recommend dental implants until the jawbone is fully developed.
At What Age Is It Safe to Get Dental Implants?
The answer to this question often depends on the child himself/herself as well as the opinion of the oral surgeon. Some have suggested minimum ages of 15 for girls and 17 for boys; however, sometimes the jawbone continues growing all the way up to ages 18-20. Thus, to be safe, it’s usually best to wait until at least age 18 before considering dental implants.
Alternatives in the Meantime
Implants aren’t a good option for children, but that doesn’t mean tooth loss shouldn’t still be addressed. Missing teeth in the mouth can cause complications in children the same as in adults, not to mention the effect it can have on their self-esteem. If your child lost a baby tooth prematurely, it’s likely safe enough just to wait until the permanent tooth grows in unless your dentist indicates otherwise. If a permanent tooth is lost, the surgeon may recommend a more temporary solution like dentures, which can be refitted and adjusted as the jawbone grows, until the jawbone is fully developed and implants become an option. If your child needs braces, the orthodontist might also attach an artificial tooth to the braces to keep the other teeth in place.
Tooth loss can be a challenge for kids as well as adults, but there are solutions available to restore your child’s smile and give you peace of mind. To learn more, call Riverside Oral Facial Surgery at (706) 235-5570.