In the classic holiday film, It's a Wonderful Life, George Bailey sees what life would be like if he'd never been born. In a variation on the theme, imagine your life if your teeth had never formed.
That's actually a reality for some—they're born without teeth, albeit usually only one or two. But even then, they're often more susceptible to problems with their bite, speech development and nutrition.
And if their missing teeth affects their appearance, their self-image could also take a hit. In particular, the maxillary lateral incisors on either side of the central incisors (those in the very front) can create an odd smile if missing.
Fortunately, we can correct the problem of missing lateral incisors with three possible solutions. The first is canine substitution, involving the pair of pointed teeth next in line to the missing incisors. In effect, we use orthodontic appliances like braces to move them toward the frontmost teeth and close the missing teeth gap.
It's a minimally invasive way to improve smile appearance. But because of their size and sharp edges, it's often necessary to alter the canines, perhaps even crown them. Some people may also need gum surgery to "blend" the gums with the repositioned teeth.
A second method is a fixed bridge, a series of fused crowns. Those in the middle replace the missing teeth, while those on the ends are bonded to the natural teeth on either side of the gap to support the bridge.
Bridges can function well for many years, but it does require permanently altering the supporting teeth for crowning. An alternative Maryland or bonded bridge doesn't require this alteration, but it's also less durable than a traditional bridge.
Finally, we could replace the missing teeth with dental implants, a titanium post imbedded into the jawbone with an attached life-like crown. An implant tooth can last for decades, and don't require alterations to other teeth. However, they're not suitable for younger patients who are still undergoing jaw development—a temporary restoration may thus be in order until the jaw matures.
Being born without certain teeth is something you can't do anything about. But you can change how it affects your appearance and life with one of these options for a new smile.
If you would like more information on correcting a smile with missing teeth, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “When Permanent Teeth Don't Grow.”
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