After wisdom teeth, the most common type of tooth to simply not develop is the lateral incisor. This can be hard to deal with, because, unlike the wisdom teeth, the lateral incisor is front and center in your mouth, the second most prominent tooth in your smile, after the central incisors. In fact, as much as 2% of the population may simply not develop lateral incisors.

The good news is, though, if you didn’t develop lateral incisors, we have several options to replace them.

Canine Substitution

Canine substitution is one of the more common ways used to replace a missing lateral. Basically, orthodontics are used to move the canine tooth over into the position where the lateral incisor should be.

This does have some benefits. It’s using just your natural teeth, so there’s no need for surgery and no need for a replacement tooth. It can also be started earlier, in the early teenage years like other orthodontics.

But it does have its drawbacks. First, it can be a long process to move your canine tooth and all your other teeth around to fill the gaps. And there’s the question of aesthetics. Your canine tooth is a different shape and size from a lateral incisor, more so in some people than others, and moving it into the position of the lateral may not give as attractive a result. Sometimes the lateral incisor can be reshaped either just by reshaping the tooth or applying porcelain veneers to create a more attractive result.

Dental Bridges

Dental bridges can also be used to replace a missing lateral, the same as for any other missing tooth. Dental bridges have the ability to give you a completely natural and attractive looking lateral, especially because modern dental bridges look a lot like natural teeth, with only subtle differences to distinguish them from your natural teeth. Most likely, no one will be able to tell that you have a dental bridge rather than a natural tooth.

But dental bridges do have downsides. First, it means removing material from your natural teeth on either side of the lateral incisor. Modifying natural teeth damages them, and for young, healthy teeth it’s a shame to do it because it could result in a shortened lifespan.

And dental bridges don’t support your bone and gums underneath the tooth. This means that your body might remove bone from the area and the gums could collapse, which can impact the appearance of your smile.

Dental Implants

As with other tooth replacement situations, dental implants remain your best tooth replacement option for missing laterals. They are most like your natural teeth, and have the ability to last a lifetime. They don’t depend on neighboring teeth for support and they can support your jawbone and gums.

Dental implants may not always be the best option, though, because they do require surgery. We also have to wait until the jawbone is mature before placing dental implants. And if you’ve waited a long time to get your laterals replaced, there may not be adequate jawbone at the site to support a dental implant.

If you want to learn what is the best treatment for missing laterals in your case, please call (702) 873-0324 for an appointment with a Las Vegas cosmetic dentist at the office of Dr. James B. Polley.