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How Can Orthodontists Help With Missing Teeth?

Here at Humphrey Orthodontics, we know how worrying oral issues can be. Whether it’s a problem you’re experiencing yourself or one your child is dealing with, considering why it’s happened and how you’re going to fix it can leave you feeling more than a little overwhelmed. One such issue we regularly see in our office is a patient missing one or more permanent teeth. Adults have a number of options, but because a child’s jaws are still developing, treatment isn’t always as simple as replacing a lost tooth or one that has never grown in. Let’s take a closer look at how missing teeth can happen, the ways orthodontics can help, and why Dr. Humphrey is the best choice for treatment in St. Charles County and the surrounding areas!

Common causes of missing teeth

While most of us will end up with a complete set of thirty-two permanent teeth, congenitally missing teeth also happen with surprising frequency. Hypodontia refers to teeth that fail to fully develop and is one of the most common dental developmental abnormalities. In fact, up to 20% of all adults are missing at least one tooth!

Hypodontia can occur in children, too, although it generally affects a much smaller percentage. When a child has a congenitally missing baby tooth, the permanent tooth is often missing as well. Hypodontia most often affects:

The wisdom teeth, which are found all the way in the back of the mouth. Congenitally missing wisdom teeth are very common. They’re so common, in fact, that they make up about 15% of that 20% figure above!

The second premolars, which reside right in front of the molars. Sometimes we’ll remove one of these teeth during braces treatment, but in children, a missing premolar is almost always due to hypodontia.

Upper lateral incisors, the two teeth that sit on either side of your two front teeth.

Lower central incisors, which are the two front teeth in the lower jaw.

In most cases of hypodontia, there will only be one or two teeth missing rather than multiple teeth.

What causes congenitally missing teeth?

Our teeth form as part of a really complex process, and many genetic signals must be “read” correctly in order for it to be successful. In general, most cases of hypodontia occur from problems with the dental lamina. This is the band of tissue that lies underneath the gums, and it’s where our teeth begin forming. There are a number of genetic factors that can interfere with this, but most research points to the main cause being a mutation with one of the three specific genes involved in tooth development. If a mutation occurs that causes the dental lamina to be missing, the corresponding tooth usually won’t form, either.

Certain systemic conditions, including inherited disorders, may also result in congenitally missing teeth. Ectodermal dysplasia is one of the most common genetic defects affecting dental development, and it is not uncommon for patients with Down’s Syndrome to be missing teeth as well. Gum disease, tooth decay, and injury are the most common causes for non-hereditary tooth loss.

How are missing teeth treated?

Whether you’re dealing with a congenitally missing tooth or one that has been lost due to an accident or other trauma, there are treatment options available!

Children typically lose all their baby teeth by around the age of twelve. In most cases, losing a primary tooth is quickly followed by the eruption of the new permanent one. If your child loses a baby tooth and a replacement hasn’t appeared within a reasonable amount of time, this could signify an issue that needs to be looked at by a dentist or orthodontist. The most appropriate treatment for any child missing permanent teeth can be ascertained by an examination with a qualified dental provider. There will usually be three options when a permanent tooth is missing:

  • preserve the baby tooth

  • replace the missing tooth

  • orthodontically close the space

These methods aren’t always interchangeable! An experienced doctor like Dr. Humphrey will work with your child’s dentist to determine the best treatment for them based on their teeth, bite, any crowding that’s present, and several other variables.

There are many ways that orthodontics can be used in conjunction with dentistry to help correct hypodontia. For example, orthodontic treatment can create a space in the area where a tooth hasn’t emerged, especially if another tooth has already filled that gap. This can make room for an eventual implant. Another option would be closing a space left by a missing tooth by guiding other teeth into position to close that gap. To accomplish this, we sometimes use a method of tooth shaping that will allow them to properly fit and mimic the look of the tooth that would normally be in that spot.

Adults with a missing tooth or teeth have a range of treatment options to choose from. As mentioned above, braces can be a great option for missing teeth, as they can close or widen gaps in order to leave the perfect amount of space for a replacement. Dentures, dental bridges, and dental implants can also help restore or enhance your natural smile!

Get a healthy smile you love with Humphrey Orthodontics

Our teeth are made to work together, so missing or losing one or more of them can really throw your whole smile off. The resulting gap can cause the nearby teeth to drift towards it, something that can affect your bite and cause stress to the teeth and jaw joints. Teeth that have shifted can also be more difficult to clean, increasing your risk for tooth decay and gum disease.

At Humphrey Orthodontics, we know the positive impact a healthy smile can have on your life! We work hard to provide patients with a rewarding orthodontic experience in a stress-free environment. That includes operating on a flexible schedule with early morning and late evening hours, exceptional customer service, and personalized care that will have you feeling like family from your first visit to your last!

If you or your child have a missing tooth and you’re ready to learn more about how our talented team can transform your smile with orthodontics, get in touch today! We’d love to schedule you for a FREE consultation with Dr. Humphrey.