Individuals who have always had an inexplicable gap where a tooth should be may have a condition known as congenitally missing teeth. Depending on which teeth are missing, the condition can prove embarrassing and may affect the proper positioning of surrounding teeth, making dental consultations and treatment a good idea for sufferers.
Unlike teeth lost to disease or injury, congenitally missing teeth simply never develop within the jawbone. A national association of prosthodontists note that certain genetic defects may cause the condition. The problems associated with congenitally missing teeth are more than merely cosmetic. You may have trouble chewing or talking well, and without the stabilizing effect of the missing teeth, your other teeth may begin to drift out of place, creating an even more gap-toothed appearance as well as possible bite misalignments.
Fortunately, several functional and cosmetic dentistry options can provide removable or permanent replacements for congenitally missing teeth. The most beneficial method of tooth replacement is through permanent implants. The “roots” of these prosthetic teeth are surgically implanted into the jawbone, where they fuse with the bone to create a strong bond. A porcelain crown then fills the gap.
Implants have the advantage of requiring no special care beyond normal dental hygiene, while also helping to preserve jawbone density. Less costly alternatives include being fitted for removable partial dentures or bridges. Braces may also be able to help close the gap left by congenitally missing teeth.
Dental advances in the near future may even allow patients with congenitally missing teeth to grow their own replacements. According to dental research, the possibility of using stem cells to create permanent teeth may be possible in the near future. Since having one’s own natural teeth is obviously the ideal scenario, this method of tooth replacement may someday take the place of artificial implants as the state of the dental art. But whatever technique you choose, rest assured that modern dentistry can help you achieve a gap-free smile.
“Missing Tooth/Teeth.” American College of Prosthodontists.
“Dental Implants.” American College of Cosmetic Dentistry.
“Stem Cells May Be Used to Grow Teeth.” Dentistry Today.
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Congenitally Missing Teeth in Children
If your child has lost a baby tooth with no sign of the expected permanent replacement, this does not necessarily mean that he has congenitally missing teeth. Many children experience a condition known as delayed eruption in which the permanent tooth simply takes an unusually long time to appear.
Parents cannot be certain teeth are permanently missing based on purely visual evidence. The best course of action is to schedule dental evaluations for your child, beginning around age one, so a missing tooth can be verified. Contact your dentist for additional information and to schedule an evaluation.