Braces for Missing Teeth – Is It Possible And Is It A Good Idea?

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Are you wondering whether braces for missing teeth is a possibility?

If you have several missing teeth, you may be worried about not being able to undergo orthodontic treatment, whether with braces or clear aligners. However, before you shut down the possibility, you should know the facts.

In many cases, it is absolutely possible to get braces, even with several missing teeth. However, because each case is unique there can be no one-size-fits-all answer, and in severe cases where a great number of the patient’s teeth are missing, other dental work will have to be carried out before orthodontic treatment can take place.

Depending on how many teeth you are missing and where in your mite the gaps are located, you may need one or more dental implants before you can get braces or clear aligners. The implants themselves cannot be shifted into better alignment once installed and healed, but the surrounding teeth can. The implants can be necessary to fill some of the empty space that will allow the other teeth to move into better positions. 

In other words, there are solutions available if you want your teeth straightened, even if your starting point is having multiple teeth missing.

In this article, we are going to explore your options and lay out the facts about how to get braces with missing teeth.

Orthodontic treatment options for patients with missing teeth

Orthodontic treatment options are not only available to people with all of their natural teeth intact. If you start out with several missing teeth, it simply means that you may have to take a slightly different and perhaps more laborious route to get to your dream smile.

Howe you should go about getting your own teeth straightened even if a number of them are missing is going to depend on a number of things, including how many teeth are missing and where in your mouth the gaps left by missing teeth are located. Evidently, there is a big difference between having very few remaining teeth left, or having just one missing tooth.

If you have just one missing tooth

If you have just one missing tooth, you are in a much better starting position than those who may have several missing teeth and require other dental work, usually in the form of implants, before any sort of orthodontic treatment can take place.

With just one missing tooth, you are usually able to get braces or clear aligners just as easily as if you had all of your adult teeth still intact. As a matter of fact, both traditional braces and clear aligners can be very effective at closing a gap where a tooth is missing, thus eliminating the need for a dental implant.

How this works is that the pressure from the aligners or braces slowly pushes the surrounding teeth closer together, until the gap between them has fully closed. How long this process takes depends on the size of the gap and where in your mouth the gap is located.

If you only have a few remaining teeth

The more missing teeth you have, the more challenging closing the gap with braces or clear aligners becomes. And whether you are able to get braces with several teeth missing from your mouth depends on how many teeth are missing, the sizes of the gaps and where in your mouth these gaps are located. As a rule of thumb, it is easier to close tooth gaps between front teeth than molars.

In some cases, you will still be able to get braces with several missing teeth. You may be fortunate enough that the gaps between your remaining teeth are small enough that they can be closed imply by the surrounding teeth being shifted closer together.

In other cases, however, your dentist may recommend that you get at least a couple of dental implants to replace some of your missing teeth before braces can be installed in your mouth.

It may seem counterintuitive to get dental implants installed, only to then undergo orthodontic treatment However, getting dental implants before rather than after your orthodontic treatment serves an important purpose. If there are not enough teeth in your mouth when you get your braces, your teeth may shift unpredictably, and as a result the treatment may take much longer and the results will almost definitely be substandard compared to if you had gotten dental implants before undergoing teeth straightening treatment.

It is important to be aware that dental implants themselves cannot be shifted by wearing braces. The reason for this is that each dental implant is affixed to a titanium screw that goes all the way down through your gums and is fused to your jawbone. The dental implant is immovable, but the surrounding teeth can still be shifted into better alignment around it.

Getting dental implants requires surgery, so after getting some or all of your missing teeth replaced with implants, you should wait at least a few months before getting braces, leaving the newly installed implants plenty of time to heal.

If all or most of your teeth are missing

If most or even all of your teeth are missing, you are either going to need multiple dental implants or bridges before you are able to get braces.

If you happen to have lost all or nearly all of your natural teeth, whether due to illness or accident, replacing all of them with implants may be too costly. Replacing each missing tooth with an implant can easily cost between $3000 and $6000 per tooth, and if you need a mouthful, you can see how the numbers can add up.

Fortunately, bridges are a great alternative to implants when a significant number of teeth are missing, provided that the missing teeth are all in a row.

Not only are bridges cost-effective, as you can replace missing teeth for somewhere in the region of $300 to $500 per tooth, they are also very efficient in terms of the time it takes to get them installed.

Tooth-supported bridges, which as the name indicates are bridges that are bonded and supported by natural teeth at either end, require no surgical intervention whatsoever. Even with implant-supported bridges, the amount of surgery involved is minimal. An implant-supported bridge is exactly the same as a tooth-supported bridge, only it is bonded to and supported by dental implants at either end rather than natural teeth. The only reason to choose an implant-supported bridge over a tooth-supported one is if you do not have natural teeth to support the bridge.

On average, bridges last 10-15 years.

If you need extractions due to overcrowded or misaligned teeth

In some cases, you may be starting out with a mouth full of teeth, but end up with missing teeth due to the necessity of extractions. This only really happens if your teeth are overcrowded or severely misaligned.

For the teeth to be able to shift in your mouth, they need enough room to be able to do so. If your mouth contains more teeth than it can comfortably accommodate, this in itself can lead to your teeth becoming misaligned as they are all vying for space.

If this is the case for you, your dentist is likely to recommend removing one or more teeth before your teeth straightening treatment plan can be put into action.

FAQ about braces with missing teeth

Do braces work if you have missing teeth?

The answer depends on how many missing teeth we are talking about.

If you have just one or a few missing adult teeth, you will usually be able to get and wear braces or clear aligners without any issues. Aligners or braces may also be able to close the gap between the surrounding teeth where one has been lost, whether due to impact trauma, tooth decay, gum disease or some other illness.

In other cases, however, you may need some form of dental restoration, usually dental implants, before braces are able to do their job of shifting your teeth into paper alignment. The dental implant itself cannot be shifted into a different position once it has fused to your jaw bone, but the other teeth around it can.

How long does it take for braces to fill missing tooth?

It can take braces anywhere form a few months to over a year to fill the gap left by a missing tooth. In most cases, it takes somewhere between six and eight months. If you have multiple gaps, closing them all in a safe, permanent manner, may take from 12 months to 2 years. 

Because every case is unique, is impossible to give a one-size-fits-all answer as to exactly how long it takes for braces or clear aligners to close a tooth gap, as the answer is going to depend on the size of the gap left by the missing tooth as well as the location of the missing tooth. 

How many teeth do you have to lose to get braces?

If your teeth are overcrowded, your dentist may need to extract one or several of your teeth before braces or clear aligners can be installed and used to any effect.

The reason for this is that crowded teeth do not have enough room to be able to shift, which is the only way to straighten teeth. Precisely how many extractions you will need before you can get braces depends on how overcrowded your teeth are. 

Your next step

If you have missing teeth, whether it is a single missing tooth or several, your first step if you want your remaining teeth straightened is to set up an appointment to have your teeth assessed by a dental professional.

Reading this article has provided you with a good starting point to know what to expect and what is feasible for orthodontic patients with missing teeth, but only a dentist can advice you on the best treatment plan in your particular case.

Both traditional braces and clear aligners can correctly space remaining teeth, but in order for the clear aligner or braces treatment to work you need to have enough teeth in your mouth before the getting your custom aligners or braces installed.

If you have multiple teeth missing, you are likely going to need dental implants – or, in more severe cases, bridges – before starting your teeth straightening treatment. While dental implants cannot be shifted by the braces treatment, as the titanium screws each artificial tooth is affixed to is fused to your jaw bone, the adjacent teeth can be shifted into proper alignment around the implant or implants.

When you have missing teeth, getting brace or clear aligners may seem like a daunting undertaking – particularly if you know that you are going to need restorative dental work before your treatment can even begin. But trust us, even if implants are needed to bring you up to speed before before your orthodontic treatment can begin, getting your teeth straightened is always worth it.

Look at it this way. Any necessary tooth replacement costs and the cost of the braces or aligner treatment itself is an important investment in your oral and overall health. These expenditures are also an investment in your mental well-being, as having a mouth full of straight and healthy-looking teeth is much more aesthetically pleasing than having a smile full of gaps. It may surprise you how much of a confidence boost acquiring a healthy and beautiful smile can give you.

Dr Febin Mary George - Editor

With more than 10 years as a dental surgeon, Dr Febin Mary George is passionate about educating consumers around the world to help look after their teeth.

She completed her Bachelor of Surgery at the Century Institute of Dental Science and Research Centre in 2010.

Alongside editing the International Journal of Dental Clinics she has also written for major publications including Thrive Global.