The short answer is YES — in most cases. In fact, braces are a great way to close or widen gaps between teeth to leave the perfect amount of space for a replacement. When you have missing teeth, the adjacent teeth can often drift into the empty space. And this can lead to problems. That’s why it’s important to know the facts about missing teeth and what to do about them.
Why Teeth Might Be Missing
It might surprise you to learn that up to 20% of adults will have one or more missing teeth due to an inherited genetic trait. However, the most common cause of missing teeth is gum disease, tooth decay, and injury.
Additionally, if teeth are overcrowded, there may be a need to have a few extracted before braces can be applied.
And of course, children will have missing teeth as they lose their baby teeth and the permanent teeth grow in. And while it’s more common for children to wear braces after all their permanent teeth have finished growing, sometimes orthodontic treatment is needed before that.
For example, children may have jaw issues or misalignments that prevent their permanent teeth from growing correctly. Therefore, they may need orthodontic treatment while teeth are missing.
Problems Caused by Missing Teeth
It’s not simply a cosmetic issue when teeth are missing. Missing teeth can cause a loss of bone density around the site of the gap. Additionally, when a tooth is missing, the other teeth begin to shift and try to fill in that gap, which can destabilize the teeth and possibly lead to further tooth loss. Also, you may have a hard time biting and chewing if your teeth are out of alignment.
Missing teeth can also distort the appearance of your face since they are not there to support the facial structure. Also, a lack of certain teeth can cause changes in speech and difficulty pronouncing certain sounds.
Missing teeth also can cause chronic facial pain due to stress on the jaw joint. This can lead to TMJ and chronic headaches. Needless to say, it’s important to deal with missing teeth!
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How Braces Work with Missing Teeth
If you are missing teeth, we have many options available to treat this problem. Sometimes we may want to close the gap created by the missing tooth, particularly if a patient already deals with overcrowding. Other times, when one or more teeth are missing, orthodontics may help and can partially or completely close the spaces left by those teeth. This can reduce or eliminate tooth replacement costs. However, if you have experienced tooth loss to more than one tooth, especially if the missing teeth are side by side, then you will need to see a dentist to determine if implants or dental bridges are needed. Our orthodontists are always willing to work with you and your dentist to coordinate your treatment.
If the missing tooth needs to be replaced, we can apply braces to leave room for a restoration in the future. And if the space isn’t wide enough for replacing, braces can widen the space so that there’s room for an implant or bridge. If there’s already plenty of space available for a dental restoration, braces can hold that area open so that the surrounding teeth don’t move in on the open space (if that would not be detrimental to your overall bite).
If you are missing one or more teeth, Dr. Taylor will take this into account when applying your braces. If a missing tooth is going to be restored, the space may need to be widened to make room. In other cases, the space may need to simply be maintained, or braces can close the gap with the existing teeth. Dr. Taylor will determine what is best.
Can I Get Invisalign With Missing Teeth?
If you aren’t sure if you want traditional braces, you may be wondering if you can get Invisalign with missing teeth. The answer to that is yes, you can in most cases. If it was tooth decay or chronic gum disease that led to the loss of your tooth, Invisalign may be the best option. With removable aligners, you are able to brush and floss as you normally would which makes it easier to maintain excellent oral health.
With Invisalign, missing teeth will involve the same considerations as traditional braces. Invisalign could also be a good way to maintain or make space where the tooth is missing so it can be replaced in the future.