In certain circumstances, some teeth cannot be saved due to extensive decay, infection, or lack of finances. Some might believe that it’s easier just to have the problem tooth removed and deal with replacing it with a dental implant in the future. Rarely, however, does the body heal in such a way that leads to a simple implant placement down the road.
For those of you who have ever had ever had an adult tooth removed (other than your wisdom teeth), you might notice that over the years, gradual changes in the bone occur if nothing is done to replace the tooth. The most noticeable change is that the bone where the tooth used to be becomes sunken and narrower. In essence, the bone “melts” away because there is no longer a tooth that requires the bone support
(Click on the picture below for a video of normal healing after tooth removal).
The reduced bone levels after healing can make the future implant placement more complicated, expensive, and can even preclude the placement of an implant if there is not enough bone at all. Insufficient bone levels may require additional surgical procedures to help increase the bone volume.
To prevent this situation from happening, a simple procedure called a bone graft (or socket augmentation) can be done at the time the tooth is extracted. By placing bone material in the extraction socket right after the tooth is removed, the amount of bone shrinkage is minimized as healing progresses. This allows for a more straight-forward, less complicated implant placement which usually translates to a less expensive procedure down the road.
(Click on the picture below for a video of healing with a bone graft)
The Bottom Line: If you are having a tooth removed and plan on replacing it in the future with a dental implant, speak to your dentist about a bone graft or socket augmentation to create optimal conditions for a simpler (and usually less expensive) implant placement.
– Dr. Michael Banh