Dental implants are a permanent restoration for missing teeth that replace the root as well as the tooth. Because children younger than teenagers do not yet have their permanent teeth, this option is generally not appropriate for them. However, older children who have lost teeth due to an accident or who have experienced inhibited growth of their teeth due to conditions such as a cleft palate may be able to receive dental implants. If your child has all of his or her permanent teeth and you wish to explore this option, be sure to ask your dentist for a referral to Greater Atlanta Oral Facial Surgery.
Jaw Development is a Major Consideration with Dental Implants for Children
As oral surgeons, we do not set an arbitrary age for when a teenager is ready to receive dental implants to replace one or more missing teeth. Instead, we evaluate whether the upper and lower jaws have finished developing before considering this procedure. This process happens at different times for our younger male and female patients. Some girls are ready to receive dental implants by age 14 or 15 while most boys need to wait until they are 17 years old. We can determine whether your son or daughter has completed jawbone development by taking an X-ray of the growth plates in the wrists.
Dental Implant Procedure the Same for Older Teenagers and Adults
If we determine that your teenager’s jawbone is done growing, we will prepare him or her for oral surgery the same as adult patients. The first part of the process involves bringing your child to Greater Atlanta Oral Facial Surgery for one of our oral surgeons to place a titanium post in his or her jawbone to replace missing roots. We need to allow approximately three months for healing and for the replacement roots to fuse with the existing ones. Your child can wear a removable oral appliance with an artificial tooth attached in the meantime.
Once this has occurred, your child is ready to receive an abutment in the spot of the missing tooth that the oral surgeon will use to attach the replacement tooth. Dental implants look and function as natural teeth and your child should care for them in the same manner. They can last for decades or even for life when cared for appropriately.
When Children Are Not Ready for Dental Implants
Young people who have lost one or more permanent teeth but who still have a developing jawbone can conceal their tooth loss with a removable oral appliance as described above. They can then opt for the dental implant procedure once they have reached the point of physical maturity.
If your child loses a primary tooth prematurely, you should ask your dentist to place a space maintainer until the permanent tooth starts to grow in. Not having the space maintainer in place can cause problems with alignment and the proper eruption and growth of other teeth that could lead to the need for orthodontic work or other dental issues later.
Please do not hesitate to contact our Buckhead or Cumming office with additional questions about dental implants for children.