Contributed by Jennifer Dawson
Photo by Amauri AM
Tooth decay is one of the most common chronic conditions for children in the US. By the time a child is aged around six, they may already have a mixture of primary and permanent teeth, and when cavities are too large or root canal treatment fails, the dentist may have to pull out affected teeth, leading to gaps that can reduce a child’s self-confidence when smiling, in addition to problems with chewing and pain.
What Happens When Large Gaps Exist in a Child’s Mouth?
In both children and adults, large gaps can cause adjoining teeth to move, affect one’s bite, and lead to jaw pain.
Bruxism (or teeth grinding) can be particularly painful for those with big gaps, because the pressure of grinding is supported by far fewer teeth (sometimes just one) than is the case in a healthy mouth.
How Can Implants Help?
Implants can stop issues such as tooth movement, and make it easy to chew food on both sides of the mouth a. They can also enable people to smile more confidently.
Often, they can be placed during the same procedure in which a tooth is extracted, and a temporary tooth can be placed until the implant is ready to receive a permanent crown.
If you are considering implants, try to do so quickly after losing teeth. If you let years go by, the bone you need to support a dental implant can waste away, and you may need a separate procedure (bone implantation and/or a sinus lift if the gap is in your upper row of teeth), which can significantly increase the costs associated with implants. These are not always covered by dental insurance or Medicaid, since they are considered part of an aesthetic procedure. Therefore, it is wise and cost efficient to get them as soon as possible.
If implants are required for children, bear in mind that they will have to wait until they are 18 for; to fill a gap, their dentist may recommend the use of a temporary device, which will definitely restore their confidence until they are ready for a permanent solution.
When are Implants Not the Best Choice?
Implants are not always recommended by your dentist. For instance, in the case of a very small gap, dentists may simply recommend that you leave it as is. Sometimes, they will spot a growing wisdom tooth which, if not impacted, can possibly grow and ‘take the place’ of a missing tooth.
Moreover, patients are not suitable for surgery because they have another health condition, in which case a dentist may recommend a dental prosthesis.
At other times, implantation may not be ideal because a patient has an issue such as gum disease, which needs to be addressed first in order to ensure the success of an implant.
Dental implants are an excellent long-term solution for missing teeth though they cannot be employed until a person is at least 18. Preventive care and regular cleaning is vital if children are to avoid unsightly gaps that can also interfere with their ability to enjoy their food or to smile with confidence.