Treating Tooth Loss
There’s nothing quite like the feeling you get when you see a joyful grin on your child’s face, especially when you know that you were the one to put it there—even if all it took was making a silly face or a quick joke. After all, it’s your job as a parent to give your child what they need to thrive, and sometimes that means making them smile and laugh! It’s also important to make sure their smile is healthy. It’s natural for younger children to lose healthy baby teeth as their adult teeth begin erupting, but it’s not uncommon for children to lose teeth for other reasons. Whether they’ve lost an adult tooth or a baby tooth before its time, learning what’s causing your child’s tooth loss, resolving it, and choosing restorative treatments will help get your child’s oral health back on track. To help you get started and make the best decision for your child, we’ve put together a guide on tooth loss in children.
What might cause my child to lose teeth?
There are a number of ways your child could lose a tooth. Tooth decay and gum disease are two of the most well-known causes of tooth loss. It can affect adult or baby teeth, but the thinner layer of enamel protecting baby teeth makes them particularly vulnerable to cavities. Regardless of their age, certain health conditions, such as those that weaken their immune system, can make your child more likely to develop tooth decay or gum disease. Another leading cause of tooth loss in children is injury, which your child might sustain while they’re playing a sport. It’s rare, but there are also a few congenital conditions that make teeth more vulnerable to decay or that cause one of your child’s teeth to simply never develop.
What are dental implants?
Dental implants are replacement teeth that restore the function and appearance of one or more missing teeth while protecting a patient’s future oral health. They’re made of a titanium metal rod that’s embedded in the jaw bone—just like a natural tooth root is. Once placed in the jaw, a number of tooth prostheses can be secured to it, including a dental implant, bridge, or dentures.
Dental implants are incredibly effective because of how well they take on the role of natural tooth roots, providing the stability and comfort of a natural tooth. Titanium is biocompatible, so implants encourage bone growth around them, securing them more firmly in place. Implants also prevent bone loss in the jaw, keeping it strong and healthy for years to come by providing stimulation to the jaw bone just like a natural tooth root.
Are dental implants safe for children?
While dental implants are one of the best ways for adults to replace missing teeth, they’re not an option for children who aren’t done growing yet. Dental implants mimic natural tooth roots incredibly well, but their lack of natural ligaments means that they’re largely fixed in place—they don’t shift in your jaw like natural teeth can. This isn’t a problem for adults, but it is for children whose jaw bone isn’t done growing yet. The implant may keep natural teeth from erupting normally and can even hinder the growth of their jaw. Dental implants could still be a great solution in a few years, but they aren’t an option until your child has stopped growing. Every child grows at a different rate, so it’s hard to pin down an age that children are ready for dental implants. The best way to know is to work with your pediatric dentist to determine the ideal time for your child to get an implant.
What are the alternatives to dental implants?
If your child is too young for dental implants, there are still plenty of tooth replacement options that will restore the function, appearance, and health of their missing tooth. If the tooth your child lost was a baby tooth, you can simply opt for space maintainers. One of the major jobs of a baby tooth is to guide their adult teeth into place, but when your child loses one early, their remaining teeth naturally begin to shift into the new gap. This can cause their adult teeth to come in crooked, potentially increasing the amount of orthodontic work they’ll need in the future. Space maintainers prevent this by keeping the gap left behind by your child’s lost tooth open, allowing their adult teeth to erupt in the right spots when they’re ready.
Baby and adult teeth can be replaced with a removable partial denture or a bridge. When they’re made for children, removable partial dentures are usually made of acrylic materials and consist of prosthetic teeth and gums. They’re held in place using metal attachments that are placed on nearby teeth. Removable partial dentures can be lost, so they’re generally recommended for older children. In contrast, bridges are fixed in place on your child’s teeth. They consist of one or two prosthetic teeth that are supported by a dental crown on either side. This means that fitting them requires crowns to be placed on the teeth next to the gap in your child’s smile. Perhaps surprisingly, braces can also provide a solution for missing teeth by either closing the gap created by a missing tooth or widening a partially closed gap enough to allow for restorative treatment such as a dental implant or bridge in the future.
How can I prevent future tooth loss?
Thankfully, there are plenty of steps you can take at home to help prevent your child from suffering tooth loss in the future! One of the biggest changes you can make is really instilling a thorough oral hygiene routine in your child. Children aren’t coordinated enough to brush their own teeth thoroughly until they’re five or six years old, so it’s best to brush and floss your child’s teeth until that age. If they’re interested in brushing their own teeth sooner, let them—but always go back over their teeth yourself! You can also increase their excitement about this daily routine by brushing and flossing your teeth together or putting together a chart to reward your child for brushing and flossing regularly.
Dental injuries aren’t predictable, but you can still lower the chances that your child will suffer from one by making sure they wear a mouthguard during sports. This is especially important for contact sports, but they should be wearing a mouthguard while they’re doing any activity where they could fall or take an unexpected blow to the face. This simple practice can save your child’s tooth! Finally, another important step is ensuring that you schedule dental checkups for yourself and your child every six months. Dr. Staley actively helps prevent decay by cleaning hardened tartar from your child’s teeth and looks for early signs of decay, catching cavities or gum disease before they become severe enough to cost your child a tooth. Taking care of your own oral health is just as important, however, because the bacteria that cause cavities is actually contagious—so you can protect your child’s oral health by protecting your own!
We always want to be sure that our children are healthy and happy. Treating your child’s tooth loss helps ensure that you’ll keep getting to see your child’s joyful smiles and dorky grins in full, with the added assurance that they’re not just happy—they’re healthy as well. If your child has a missing tooth that needs to be addressed or if you’re looking for a new “pediatric dentist near me” to give your child their regular checkup, feel free to call and book an appointment with Dr. Staley at our pediatric dental Boise, ID, office at any time.