Wondering if dental implants for children are a good idea? While dental implants have provided many positive solutions for adults with missing and damaged teeth, the most widely accepted conclusion is that children are not good candidates for dental implants.
The Case for Missing Teeth in Children
In children, parents understand that baby teeth will most often be replaced by healthy, permanent teeth in a few years. However, it is a much different situation when a child has congenitally missing teeth or loses a tooth as a result of an accident or trauma. Parents are often left with an unsettling and functionally challenging gap in the smile of their child. Missing teeth can cause problems with chewing, speaking, and negatively impact self-esteem.
The Bone Growth Factor
In adults, the outcome of a dental implant depends on the quality of the bone, the timeline of the treatment plan, and the patient’s oral hygiene over time. The same factors would contribute to using dental implants for children or adolescents with the exception of one critical factor: bone growth.
The widely-accepted rule among dental professionals is that children and adolescents do not make good candidates for dental implants because the process of craniofacial growth is not complete. Just as childhood and adolescence is a time of rapid growth of other areas of the body, there is a great deal of dental and skeletal growth that would make the success of a dental implant unpredictable and likely unsuccessful.
An implant placed into a growing and changing jaw could negatively impact the craniofacial structure as it develops. Implants could act as ankylotic teeth and actually fuse to the bone leading to misalignment of other teeth. What’s more, young patients may not have the stamina or tolerance to endure the dental implant process and thereby require anesthesia. A child or adolescent may also exhibit limited cooperation in maintaining oral hygiene which would negatively impact long term success of a dental implant.
What Alternatives Exist
Since it is widely accepted that children are not good candidates for dental implants, what alternatives exist? The best option could be a transitional partial denture. It is an appliance supported by existing teeth that has a false tooth to replace the missing tooth.
Generally most dental specialists will reevaluate a patient between ages fourteen and seventeen to assess if their bone growth is complete. At this time, a patient who experienced tooth loss earlier in life can explore the option of dental implants.
To find out about the options to replace a missing tooth in a child, contact Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery of Utah. Our experienced team or oral surgeons can provide an in-depth evaluation and consultation regarding alternatives to dental implants for children.