Missing Lateral Incisors – What Can We Do?

The absence of lateral incisors is the most common congenital anomaly in the mouth. Normal mouths contain eight incisors. They are the four front-most or middle-most teeth on the upper and lower jaw. The lateral incisors are located next to the front two teeth. The canines are typically located next to the lateral incisors. When the lateral incisors are missing, they can create unsightly gaps in the teeth. Thankfully, there are many options when it comes to replacing your missing lateral incisors.

Missing Lateral Incisor Treatment Plans

Part of creating the best possible treatment plan involves performing a dental examination and taking x-rays and digital images. This gives us the best picture of your mouth and the spaces between your two front teeth and canines.

Closing the Gaps

Depending on the sizes of the gaps and the size and color of your canines as well as the existing room in the dental arch, we may be able to close the gaps with braces and recontour the canines so they will look like the lateral incisors.  Depending on the amount of shape change needed, we sometimes need to have veneers or crowns places to achieve a more ideal esthetic outcome!  This can be a great outcome because you will have minimal long term restorative needs and maintance but this is not the best option for everone.  There are specific factors that help make this option successful and if they are not followed the final outcome and smile is less than ideal.

Opening the Spaces for Dental Implants or Bridges

If the space of the missing teeth cannot be feasibly closed, a dental bridge or implant can help fill the space and improve your smile.  This will help rebuild the anatomy of the missing teeth and help establish a beautiful and proportionate smile. With today’s technology, you have several different options, including different types of bridges, removable partial dentures, and Marilyn Bridges as well as implants.

Removable Partial Dentures

Removable partial dentures offer an affordable way to improve the aesthetic of your mouth while replacing the missing lateral incisors. Since these bridges are removable and reversible, you may be able to consider other tooth replacement options in the future. The primary issues with these bridges are that they are bulky, and you may notice a decrease in the ability to taste food. If they are worn for the long-term, they can cause a breakdown of the surrounding bone and soft tissues, which would make a future implant difficult if not impossible to install. However, this may be a good temporary solution for some patients, especially for growing patients!

Fixed Partial Dentures (Bridges)

Fixed partial dentures offer several advantages over removable partial dentures. The primary advantages are patient comfort and longevity. They also look better in the mouth and are less bulky than removable dentures. The installation, however, involves a significant portion of tooth to be removed from the surrounding teeth in order to ensure a good bond between the bridge and the existing teeth. These bridges are considered aesthetically pleasing but do require removal of natural tooth structure.  Thes are great options if the adjacent teeth would also benefit from a crown or have large restorations.

Marilyn Bridges (Encore Bridges)

Encore bridges are often referred to as fiber-reinforced resin-bonded bridges. These bridges offer greater flexibility within the mouth and do not require as much tooth removal. They are also a very esthetic option that are made of just tooth colored material and looks great! They are a little bit more prone to becoming debonded than traditional fixed bridge.  For this bridge, a composite fiber or ceramic is spanned across the gap and bonded to the surrounding teeth. A denture tooth can be used to fill the gap or a tooth can be crafted from composite after a custom base, called a pontic button, has been placed on the gum for support. These types of bridges are generally very well tolerated.


Implants are an ideal solution for replacing missing lateral incisors because they work just like natural teeth and can be cleaned and flossed as normal. They also do not require any tooth removal of adjacent teeth.. However, implants require at least one oral surgery to implant the post into the jaw, and in order for an implant to be successful, there must be enough space between between the teeth and and the implant. There must also be enough bone density and gum tissue to support the implant. If the implant is to be installed in a younger person, the individual’s facial bones need to have stopped growing. This is because implants to not adjust for facial growth.  Most girls have completed growth by 18-19 years old and boys are usually 19-21.

Determining the Right Dental Solution for Your Missing Lateral Incisors

We will work closely with your dentist to determine several options for you and what would be the best one for you to replace your missing lateral incisors!  Every person is unique, so choosing the best option is a big decision and many factors help determine what would be best.  We will examine your facial proportions, smile design, tooth shape and color, and your desires and goals! To learn more about our practice and how we can help you achieve a beautiful smile, even if you are missing your front teeth, or to schedule an appointment, call us at 251-928-9292.