When a young child loses a tooth, it's part of the natural process of dental exfoliation (when primary baby teeth are lost to make space for secondary adult teeth). When an adult loses a tooth, it's usually due to decay or trauma. There's no replacement tooth waiting in the wings (or rather, the gums), so the tooth must be replaced. Dental implants are the superior replacement option, with the implant itself serving as an artificial tooth root. But what about when your adolescent child loses a permanent tooth?

Permanent Tooth Loss

By the age of 14, or even as young as 12, a person should have a full set of permanent teeth. Should one of these teeth be lost, that loss is irreversible. As such, a permanent tooth replacement is necessary. While there are numerous options for this replacement (such as dentures or a dental bridge), an implant is preferable. It replicates the form and function of a natural tooth in a way that no other tooth replacement system can rival. However, dental implants are only possible when the jaw and its dental arch have reached adult size.

Adult Size

Should a permanent tooth be lost to decay or accident during adolescence, your child may not yet be eligible for a dental implant. Until their jaw has reached its adult size, your child will benefit from a dental bridge or dentures. Remember that this is only a stopgap measure until your child is eligible for a permanent solution—which is when their jaw stops growing.

Jaw Growth

Although fractional growth of the jaw may continue into a person's early twenties, the jaw has typically reached adult size by the time a person has reached their late teens. A dental implant becomes possible at this time, but further dental intervention may be required, depending on the eruption of your child's wisdom teeth.

Wisdom Teeth

Your child's wisdom teeth may not have erupted when their dental implant is installed. Should the emergence of a wisdom tooth at the rear of the dental arch place excessive pressure on the existing teeth (including the prosthetic tooth attached to their dental implant), then wisdom teeth extraction can be mandatory to maintain the implant's position and stability. 

There can be some variations on the earliest age a person can receive a dental implant. Some patients may be eligible at a younger age, whereas others may need to wait slightly longer. Your family dentist will periodically perform diagnostic tests as part of your child's regular appointments so that a dental implant can be placed as soon as it's practical to do so.