If you have missing teeth, you may be debating whether to go through the effort of replacing them. While there is a financial and time commitment to correct this condition, it is well worth it. Replacing teeth can benefit you in multiple ways. Your dentist can discuss different interventions with you to fill in these…
What Is a Congenitally Missing Tooth?
A congenitally missing tooth is the most common human dental irregularity. The National Foundation for Ectodermal Dysplasias estimates that as many as 20% of adults may be without at least one permanent tooth. The condition, also called tooth agenesis or hypodontia, tends to affect certain teeth: the lateral incisors, second premolars, and wisdom teeth (third molars).
Causes & Effects
Often the missing tooth is a harmless inherited trait. In rare cases, a patient may be missing multiple teeth. These cases tend to be associated with a cleft lip, a cleft palate, or Down Syndrome.
Some environmental factors may also come into play. If the mother is exposed to excessive levels of radiotherapy, trauma, or chemotherapy while pregnant, hypodontia may occur in the child. Certain infections or malnourishment during pregnancy may also be causes.
Left untreated, hypodontia can cause difficulties. The affected individual may have trouble chewing food thoroughly or enunciating certain sounds when speaking. Depending on the location of the gap, a patient’s smile may be affected, causing teens and adults embarrassment or self-consciousness. Surrounding teeth may shift to fill the space, which may lead to crooked teeth, jaw discomfort, or bite issues. In some cases, missing teeth can result in inadequate bone development in the jaw.
It is important to fill the gap left by the absent tooth, and the earlier the better. X-rays often show a gap in the permanent teeth while the deciduous teeth are still in place. Patients may wish to consult a dentist as soon as the abnormality is discovered to develop a treatment plan.
The gap left by a congenitally missing tooth may be filled in several ways. In general, patients choose from these options:
This is typically the simplest and most affordable treatment. A replacement tooth is created to match the patient’s surrounding teeth as closely as possible. The false tooth is attached to a dental plate or affixed with wires so that surrounding teeth can anchor the partial denture in place. The appliance can be removed for thorough cleaning.
Similar to a partial denture, a dental bridge uses replacement teeth to bridge the gap between existing teeth. The bridge is affixed to the teeth on each side of the gap. This is often done when two or more teeth are missing and the surrounding teeth and jawbone are strong. Bridges can be permanently cemented in place or they can be removable.
Dental implants are the most permanent treatment option, and they feel the most like a patient’s natural teeth. They are also the most expensive and lengthy treatment choice, involving surgery and recovery.
Dental implants involve a multistep procedure. First, a metal post is implanted into the jaw, after a bone graft if necessary. A dental crown is then cemented on the post. Once the implant is complete, the replacement tooth should feel and function the same as a natural tooth.
Approximately one in five people may be born with a missing tooth, either due to genetics or environmental factors. Proper appearance and function can be achieved with dental solutions to fill in the gap.
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