While most people associate tooth loss with age, it's not uncommon for teenagers to lose teeth to sporting accidents or other mishaps. Replacing missing teeth is important at any age, but tooth gaps can be especially difficult for teenagers, who can feel self-conscious about an imperfect smile. So it's not unusual that many parents are interested in dental implants for teenagers. Dental implants are a great permanent solution to missing teeth, preventing bone loss as well as keeping teeth from shifting into a gap.

Unfortunately, however, they require a fully mature jaw for proper implantation. Because teenagers' jaws are still developing, dental implants have to wait until they are adults. When the jaw stops developing varies from person to person, so x-rays may be used to track changes in the jaw. And to be safe, it's not uncommon for dentists to wait until patients are 20 before considering implants.

So what can you do in the meantime?

Leaving The Gap

What you don't want to do is leave the gap completely open. Besides the issue of self-consciousness, tooth gaps also lead to shifting in surrounding teeth. These teeth gradually move into the gap, altering the way the top and bottom teeth fit together. In addition, the space between each tooth gradually widens, which can result in food particles getting stuck between teeth and increasing the risk of decay and cavities.

Temporary Bridge

Usually, bridges involve grinding down the neighboring teeth to give the bridge a place to be anchored. For a temporary fix, however, there are bridges available that don't require this grinding. Instead, a strip of bonding is attached to the back of the false tooth, extending off to the adjacent teeth. This is a very natural-looking solution since the attachment is on the back of the teeth; however, temporary bridges are somewhat fragile and must be treated carefully. They aren't suitable for people with bruxism or certain types of malocclusion.

Removable Partial Dentures

Dentures aren't just for old people. A partial denture can involve even a single false tooth set in a gum-colored base. Because it's removable, teenagers don't have to worry about breaking it on hard foods as long as they remember to take it out. And removable partial dentures that are fitted in acrylic bases are somewhat flexible, which allows them to fit even as a teenager's jaw grows and matures.

Don't Forget The Implant

Whatever you choose, it's important to remember that these are temporary solutions. While bridges and partial dentures can prevent tooth shifting, they can't prevent the bone loss that a missing tooth causes. Dental implants, on the other hand, do; that's why, once the jaw is fully developed, it's good to get an implant as soon as possible. Contact a professional like Bruce Mathes DDS for more information.