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Can You Get Braces With Missing Teeth?

Lost or missing teeth is a very common finding in the dental office. Most adults lose at least one tooth during their lifetime, whether due to decay, periodontal disease, or any other reason. Unlike common belief, missing teeth is a big deal.

Some people might think since you have 32 adult teeth, that missing one or two is of no particular significance, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

A woman covering her mouth with her hands because she is embarrassed about her missing teeth

Missing teeth throw the entire balance of the oral environment into disarray. So seeking to replace these missing teeth is an absolute necessity.

There are many options to choose from including dentures, bridges, and dental implants, but the one option you might not have thought of is braces.

You might wonder if you can get braces with missing teeth, and how exactly might that work, and that’s what we’ll attempt to explain here.

Why Do Teeth Go Missing?

There are a lot of reasons for losing ones’ teeth, most commonly:

  1. Decay:

    Tooth decay is the leading cause of missing teeth. When the decay reaches a certain degree where restoring the tooth with fillings or crowns is no longer an option, then extraction is the only solution, and you end up with a gap between your teeth.

  2. Periodontal disease:

    It starts simply with some redness and bleeding of the gums. If not taken care of, it progresses very quickly into bone loss and periodontal tissue destruction, and the teeth become wobbly in their sockets. Eventually, they would become so mobile that extraction is the only treatment.

  3. Trauma:

    When you suffer a knock or a blow to your mouth, a lot of things can happen. However, the most common finding after a trauma is a lost tooth or at least part of the tooth gets broken off, and if that part can’t be restored, then the entire tooth must be removed.

What Happens When A Tooth Is Lost?

Our mouths are very delicate environments. They are composed of many structures including teeth, bones, muscles, and gums. The presence of the teeth is what keeps everything in place and functioning normally, so when a tooth is lost, one or all of the following happens:

  • The neighboring teeth start to drift into the empty space.
  • The opposing teeth also start to elongate to fill that space (that’s where braces with missing teeth come into play, but more on that in a while).
  • The bone in the area has nothing to support, and so starts to wither away with time.
  • The muscles of the tongue and cheeks are also affected by the space. You may find yourself – inadvertently – biting on your tongue and cheeks while eating.

How Can I Replace Missing Teeth?

There are 3 main options for teeth replacement:

  1. Dentures:

    Artificial, plastic replacements of missing teeth that have been around for generations. They are successful since they are very easy to fabricate, and they need no preparation or harm of the remaining teeth. However, they are not easy to get used to, and usually don’t last longer than 5 years.

  2. Bridges:

    A fixed option, and therefore more comfortable and better tolerated than dentures. They also last longer (usually between 8 and 12 years). Their main drawback is having to prepare and grind the teeth next to the space, which puts these teeth in harm’s way.

  3. Dental implants:

    By far the most successful way to replace a missing tooth. Dental implants have a success rate of over 95% and last at least 15 years if not more. They do not require any preparation of the teeth, and they preserve the bone integrity in the region.

  4. Braces:

    Braces with missing teeth? Really? Can braces even replace a tooth? All are good questions. Braces can’t really replace a missing tooth, but can surely close the space left by that tooth. This comes particularly in handy when the neighboring teeth or the opposing teeth have drifted into the space left by the missing tooth, or when the person already suffers from crowding and that space can be used to relieve such crowding.

Can You Get Braces With Missing Teeth?

We understand that may come as a shock, but yes braces with missing teeth are very much an option. There are a few scenarios here:

  1. The person who lost a tooth already suffers from crowding or crooked teeth:

    Crowding is a result of a mismatch between the teeth size and the jaw size, where the teeth are larger than the jaw. To treat crowding, the orthodontist must create space for all the teeth to be arranged in the jaw. One of the ways to create space is by teeth extraction – that’s why you hear of people going to the orthodontist and end up extracting one or more teeth –. In that case, losing a tooth may actually be a blessing in disguise. The lost tooth creates enough space to arrange the teeth.

  2. The tooth was lost a long time ago, and the other teeth started to drift into its place:

    In that case, the space for the empty tooth may either be shut completely, or re-opened in an attempt to replace the missing tooth with one of the abovementioned options. In both cases, braces are pretty much the only solution. The teeth could also be congenitally missing – meaning you were born without them present – and that presents the same problem and subsequently the same solution.

  3. The missing tooth is one of the baby teeth rather than the permanent teeth:

    In that case, and if braces are already a part of your treatment plan, then they conserve the space left by the lost baby tooth until the adult tooth erupts and takes its place. Without braces, again the neighboring teeth can drift to close the space, and the permanent tooth will have nowhere to erupt and could end up impacted in the bone.

So as you can see, braces with missing teeth are a very commonly needed option. Not as a replacement, but rather to create or preserve the space for a replacement, or otherwise closing the gap.

If you would like to learn more and to know if braces are the right option for you, please don’t hesitate to contact Dr. Elaine John and her amazing JO team at John orthodontics.

You can reach us at 954-799-5419 or find us right around the corner at 4651 N. State Rd. 7, Unit 14 Coral Springs, FL 33073.

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