Often we discuss dental implants, we emphasize that you can get them right away. When a tooth is extracted, we can often replace it with a dental implant immediately. Sometimes, this makes people think that because they had a tooth extracted sometime in the past, they can’t get dental implants now.
That’s not true–you can usually get a dental implant for a tooth lost in the past, but there might be some issues we have to evaluate first.
Is There Space for an Implant?
One problem with a lost tooth is that the other teeth can shift around. This means that if you didn’t replace the lost tooth, the other teeth likely crowded into the space, and there might not be enough room for an implant now. Even if the space between the crowns has been maintained, the roots might have shifted. This might be the case even if you had the tooth replaced with a removable partial denture. If you didn’t wear it enough or if it wasn’t well designed to maintain the space, we might still need to create space.
Fortunately, orthodontics are great for this sort of thing. A short course of orthodontics can usually create the space necessary for a dental implant.
Is There Enough Bone for an Implant?
Your teeth and bones maintain each other. The jawbone supports the tooth and the tooth stimulates the bone to stay strong and healthy. When you lose a tooth, the body immediately begins removing bone from the area. Removable dentures and dental bridges don’t address this problem.
If too much bone has resorbed from the site, we might have to do a bone graft procedure before we can place a dental implant. Other times, we can do the bone graft procedure at the time the implant is placed, but maybe the implant won’t be secure enough to support a dental crown immediately.
Is the Site Healthy for an Implant?
In addition to bone resorption, the site of a missing tooth can be vulnerable to gum disease. The place where you have a missing tooth can be hard to clean, and some tooth replacement options don’t help.
You have to clean under a dental bridge to help avoid the accumulation of food and bacteria. This might be easy at first, but as the bone is resorbed and the space grows, it can get harder. Not cleaning properly can lead to gum disease at the site.
The same is true of removable dentures. These can trap food and bacteria, and if you aren’t cleaning them well and regularly, you might have developed gum disease at the site where you now want an implant. This is why dental implants are better for your remaining teeth.
If you have gum disease at the implant site, we might want to get it treated before we decide to place an implant. Gum disease is the leading threat to long-term implant success, so we don’t want to take chances.
A Better Tooth Replacement
If you are unhappy with your current tooth replacement option–whether that’s no replacement, a bridge, or a removable denture–dental implants are a better choice. And even if you lost your teeth a while ago, you can still get implants now.