Unsightly Gaps: When A Knocked-Out Tooth Cannot Be Replaced

Posted on: 29 December 2014

Many children and teens knock out adult teeth while playing or participating in sports. If the tooth is found and preserved in milk or tooth-rescue solution and dental care is sought immediately, the tooth can often be replaced in the jaw. However, there are situations in which the tooth cannot be saved. Sometimes the tooth is lost in a field, becomes too dirty to re-insert, or is too cracked and damaged to save. In cases such as these, the child is left with a gap in his or her mouth.

Problems Associated with Untreated Tooth Gaps

If you are unable to locate a tooth that is knocked out, or if you think that a tooth is too dirty or damaged to preserve, it's still essential to take your child to the dentist promptly after he or she has a tooth knocked out. Exposed tooth sockets may become infected, and infections of the jaw and soft tissues of the mouth are quite dangerous since they can easily spread to other areas of the body through the bloodstream. There may also be portions of the tooth root remaining below the surface of the gums, and failing to have these removed by a dentist may lead to pain, infection or damage to surrounding teeth.

When your child visits the dentist, he or she will also ensure that the surrounding teeth do not show any signs of damage, such as cracks or chips. A crack or chip may begin as a minor problem, but left untreated, may lead to serious tooth decay and loss of a tooth.

Failing to treat a missing tooth may also cause the roots of nearby teeth to shift into the empty space. This can cause misalignment and trouble chewing as your child's mouth continues to grow and change.

How Missing Teeth are Treated in Children and Teens

Most dentists consider implants the gold standard when it comes to replacing missing teeth. Dental implants consist of a metal rod, which is implanted directly into the jaw bone, as well as a crown portion that looks and feels like a natural tooth. Most dental implants last a lifetime once they are inserted, and they prevent the roots of nearby teeth from shifting, since they have a root portion that extends below the surface of the gums.

Because dental implants are inserted directly into the jaw bone, they cannot be placed until a child's jaw is done growing. Otherwise, the implant may stop your child's jaw from growing properly and cause other teeth to erupt in the wrong positions. Generally, dentists will not insert implants into girls' mouths until they are at least 14 years old, or into boys' mouths until they're 17 years old. (Girls' jaws tend to stop growing before boys' jaws).

If your child knocks out a tooth before the age of 14 (for girls) or 17 (for boys) your dentist will use temporary tactics to account for the missing tooth until an implant can safely be inserted. Often, a dentist will construct a simple, retainer-like denture with only one tooth on it. Wearing this denture allows your child to chew more effectively, and also eliminates the toothless look that can be quite embarrassing for teens. When your child's jaw stops growing, a dental surgeon will construct and insert a permanent implant. Once the surrounding gums heal, the implant will look and act just like a normal tooth. No one will ever know your child knocked out a natural tooth.

Knocking out a tooth can be a traumatic experience, both for you and for your child or teen. It's important to remember that even when the original tooth cannot be placed back into the mouth, modern dentistry can fix the problem. As long as you seek proper dental care at a place like Fort Worth Dental following the incident, your child won't be toothless for long.