How Braces Can Correct A Missing Tooth

If you're missing a permanent tooth, you have two choices. You can either replace the tooth with a prosthetic (like a dental implant or dental bridge), or you can live without the tooth. Living without a tooth doesn't mean that you should do nothing. A missing tooth can set off a devastating chain of events. The teeth at opposite ends of the gap can begin to tilt into the space. Other teeth can move out of alignment. Short of replacing the missing tooth with a prosthetic, what are your options?

Location Is Relevant

Orthodontic braces can close the gap created by a missing tooth, without replacing the tooth. It's an effective method but isn't suitable for all teeth. A missing anterior tooth (at the front of your mouth) will be obvious and generally can't have its gap closed by braces. The missing tooth would be very conspicuous, and your smile would look curiously unbalanced. A missing posterior tooth towards the back of your mouth (like a molar or premolar) can often be managed with braces.

Partial Braces

It's not as though you need to straighten all the teeth in your mouth. There's a specific target area for your orthodontic treatment, and this is your gap. You won't need a full set of braces, with a bracket attached to each individual tooth. Instead, you'll need partial braces. These might need to be attached to either your entire upper or lower dental arch (depending on the gap's location), but not both arches. It may only be a few teeth on either side of the gap that must have brackets fitted. It depends on how much anchorage (traction) your teeth need to reposition themselves to disguise the gap. As with full braces, your partial braces will need regular adjustments at your orthodontic checkups.

Slow Changes

You must be aware that the results are not immediate. The orthodontic repositioning of teeth is a slow process, and it will take months before the changes become apparent. It won't look as though the teeth on either side of the gap have leaned into the space to disguise it. These teeth will actually reposition themselves, with their bases gradually changing locations to eliminate the gap and correct the spacing of your teeth. 

Dental implant surgery can be invasive, and you might be eager to avoid it. You shouldn't do anything about the gap, but if the tooth isn't directly at the front of your mouth, you may be able to avoid dental implant surgery by closing the gap with braces.