When you think about tooth extraction, what do you picture? You might envision a teenager or young adult having their wisdom teeth removed, either due to complications or to prevent those teeth from becoming impacted. Although many people associate tooth extraction solely with the wisdom teeth, there are cases when another tooth needs to be removed.
While people don’t often try to “replace” their wisdom teeth after extraction, other teeth are a different story. Here’s why it’s a good idea to replace extracted teeth as soon as possible and what your options are for doing so.
Why Tooth Extraction Happens
A dentist might pull or extract a tooth for one of several reasons. Although treatments such as fillings and root canals can help to restore a tooth that has decayed, there are cases when the decay is severe enough that a tooth can’t be saved. In those cases, the best option is often to remove the tooth entirely.
Another reason a dentist might pull a tooth is if there isn’t enough space in the mouth for all the teeth. That’s one of the more common reasons why the wisdom teeth are extracted — the modern human jaw isn’t large enough to accommodate 32 teeth. Some people even have crowding in their mouth when they have fewer than 32 teeth, making removal of one or more teeth a necessity.
There are also cases when a tooth extraction is needed after an injury to the mouth. While damaged tooth can often be fixed with a crown, there are cases when the damage is bad enough that the best option is to remove it. Extensive gum disease can also prompt a dentist to extract a tooth.
The Importance of Replacing Missing Teeth
Once a tooth is extracted (with the exception of the wisdom teeth), it leaves a small space or gap in the row of teeth that remain. That gap can make people feel self-conscious about their smile, but feeling self-conscious isn’t the only reason it’s worth considering replacing an extracted tooth.
Missing teeth can make it difficult to do things you might have taken for granted when you had all 28 or 32 of your teeth. Depending on the location of the extracted tooth, chewing can become troublesome, as can speech. You might find that you develop a lisp or have difficulty pronouncing certain sounds.
The teeth in your mouth all provide support and structure to each other. When one of those teeth “goes missing,” the others are likely to shift in position. When your teeth shift and move, it can affect your bite, making your teeth not fit together as well as they did in the past. The change in your bite can increase the risk of wear-and-tear on the teeth. It can also make it more difficult to keep the teeth clean, increasing the risk of cavities and gum disease.
When a tooth is pulled or otherwise lost, it’s often the case that the bone around the tooth starts to deteriorate. The loss of bone can actually change the shape of your mouth, which can, in turn, affect the shape of your face. Having a missing tooth or two can actually add years to your appearance due to the changes in your face shape.
Options for Replacing Extracted Teeth
If you decide to replace an extracted tooth, you have several options. Some options are more permanent than others. For example, dental implants are designed to replace not only the part of the tooth that’s visible in the mouth but also the root of the tooth or the part that attaches to the bone.
The base of a dental implant is typically a titanium post that’s inserted into gum and bone. The post is given time to fuse with the bone, then a crown or cap is placed on top of it. The crown is custom designed to fit in a person’s mouth and to match the rest of their teeth.
Other options for replacing missing or extracted teeth include bridges and dentures. The primary appeal of these two options is that they are less expensive than implants. Otherwise, they do have a few drawbacks. For example, dentures are removable and can be easy to lose or, worse, swallow. Dentures and bridges also need more upkeep and care than implants and typically need more frequent replacement. Dentures don’t prevent teeth from shifting, either.
Dr. John Paul Gallardo is a periodontal specialist in the Miami area who also offers dental implants. To learn more about his practice in Miami, FL, call 305-547-8687 to schedule a consultation today.