Some people require dental implants because they have knocked teeth out, or because they have lost teeth due to tooth decay. Unfortunately some people also require dental implants for genetic reasons, where they are naturally missing teeth.
The small side teeth next to the two big front teeth are called upper lateral incisors. For some people, these are missing since birth. It is also not uncommon for lateral incisors to appear misshapen or peg-shaped if they do develop. Each tooth has a specific function. If you have particular teeth missing, it can often disrupt the pattern and function of the teeth and the arch.
In the past, dentists used to fix this problem by moving all of the teeth forward to close the gaps created by the missing teeth. Often this can also start to occur naturally. This can give the smile a very unnatural appearance, and often requires more dental treatment at a later date to be fixed (often veneers). It also can affect the function of the teeth. The upper and lower canine teeth can not cover each other properly, which means that often the teeth cannot grasp food properly.
Ideally, dentists will prepare the spaces for future dental implants, as this is the most natural looking way to replace the missing teeth. This type of procedure is best performed once the patient hits 19-20 years, when the teeth are fully grown, and jaw growth is also complete. Otherwise, the crowns of the teeth may appear to sink as the jawbones reaches maturity – this is normally around 18 years of age.
If you or your children are missing your lateral incisors, you can speak to your dentist about what the best treatment for your case may be.