When adults have missing teeth, dental implant surgery is usually the best remedy. Tooth implants are far superior to bridges and dentures in function, feel and appearance. Plus, implanted teeth help prevent bone loss in the jaw.
But what about children? If your child happens to fall and lose a tooth — and it isn’t one of their baby teeth — is dental implant surgery an option?
That depends on how old your child is. Implants won’t work for young children, but teens may be ready for tooth implants.
Why Children Typically Have to Wait for Dental Implants
Implanted teeth are permanent because they fuse with the jawbone, a process called osseointegration.
In order for osseointegration to succeed, jaw growth must be complete. If it isn’t, the tooth implants can become crooked over time, which can prevent the neighboring teeth from coming in properly. Or the implants can sink further into the bone and appear submerged.
Children don’t have fully developed jawbones. Therefore, until the jaw is done growing, implant surgery has to wait.
The Right Age for Dental Implant Surgery
So when does the jawbone finish growing? How old does your child need to be to get dental implants?
Since every child is unique, the age for implant surgery must be determined on a case-by-case basis. Girls may be able to get tooth implants at 14 or 15, while boys typically have to wait until age 17 or later.
Oral surgeons make the decision on when to place implanted teeth by looking at X-rays of the growth plates in the wrist. The plates become thinner as the years pass, and eventually, they disappear. When they’re gone, your child can get tooth implants.
Tooth Replacement Solutions for Young Children
If your child isn’t ready for implant surgery yet, you can choose an alternate method of tooth replacement. Oral surgeons often advise parents to opt for one of the following:
- A removable partial denture, or flipper, with an artificial tooth affixed to an acrylic base
- A bonded bridge, which attaches an artificial tooth to the neighboring teeth, using them for support
- Orthodontic treatment to cement an artificial tooth to a retainer or orthodontic wire
For expert advice on which tooth replacement option is right for your child, ask the experienced team at Northeast Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery.
Dr. Garrison and Dr. Kelly, our board-certified oral surgeons, specialize in replacing missing teeth in patients of all ages. We are the go-to professionals for tooth replacement in the greater central Indiana area. To schedule a dental implant surgery consultation for your child, contact Northeast Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery in Indianapolis today.