Treating A Congenitally Missing Maxillary Lateral Incisor

There's no getting around the fact that a missing tooth is obvious to anyone you meet, and this is especially true with the teeth that are front and center when you smile. People might assume that your missing tooth is the result of poor dental hygiene or an accident, but it could be that you have certain teeth that failed to develop. For instance, the maxillary lateral incisor is often the victim when teeth are congenitally missing. If you're missing this tooth, here is what you should know.

A Significant Minority

If your maxillary lateral incisor failed to develop, you're in the minority, but it's a significant minority. Congenitally missing teeth typically affect the second premolar (at the back of your mouth), or a maxillary lateral incisor, which are the teeth on either side of your upper central incisors. It's estimated that 5% of the population are naturally missing either of these teeth. In any event, treatment will be staged, as in a number of different methods will be employed to correct the issue.

Spacing Problems

Correcting the issue means not only that a synthetic tooth replacement is needed, but that there must be adequate space for it. Spacing can be an issue because the tooth never developed. All teeth play a role in the configuration of your dental arch as a whole. Teeth grow straight (ideally anyway) because of the neighboring teeth that keep them in their own lane. When a tooth fails to develop, the teeth on either side can tilt into the gap. This angle is minimal, but it can complicate adding an artificial tooth replacement into the gap.

Creating Space

Spacing won't necessarily need to be corrected for all patients, but you can assume that it's a real possibility. This means that the first step in replacing a congenitally missing maxillary lateral incisor is generally orthodontic treatment. This can be dental braces, or an orthodontic space maintainer, which gently coaxes the tilting teeth back into the ideal vertical position. 

Filling the Space

Once these spacing issues have been corrected, there is now adequate room for an artificial tooth, which a dental implant provider can arrange. This is the implantation of an artificial tooth root into your jaw, taking advantage of the newly-created space. The artificial root is a titanium bolt, which must fuse with the underlying bone to anchor itself. This typically takes several months, but your dentist will fit a temporary prosthetic tooth to the implant, which maintains the space while also correcting the aesthetics of the missing tooth. Once the implant has fused, your dentist will fit your permanent prosthetic tooth.

Dental technology means that nobody has to live with a congenitally missing maxillary lateral incisor, although the treatment generally needs to take place over several stages. For more information, contact a dental implant provider.