Many patients think they can continue without a replacement after having a tooth pulled. However, teeth gaps can ruin the rest of your smile.
Our jaws stay healthy and robust because of our teeth. They are rooted in the alveolar bone and provide stimulation and force that tells our mouths to keep the supporting jaw healthy. However, after a tooth is removed and that pressure disappears, the mouth quickly realizes there's nothing for the jawbone to support. It tells the alveolar bone to break down, or “resorb,” into the rest of your mouth. Patients often lose more than a quarter of their natural bone to resorption within the first year after a tooth extraction. This loss rate slows down and stabilizes within 12 to 18 months, but you can continue to see your bone deteriorate for years and decades afterward.
Over time, this resorption can make a significant impact on your smile’s overall health, especially if you don’t have a replacement tooth. As the jaw loses density and the bone recedes, nearby teeth try to shift into the growing divot in your jaw, and your gums may start receding. In some cases, your remaining teeth may even become dislodged and may require further extraction. If they don’t, your teeth will be especially vulnerable to decay and gum disease. Fake teeth can prevent your teeth from moving out of alignment, and certain prosthetics can also prevent resorption in the first place.
However, there are a few rare occasions when you don’t need to restore a tooth post-extraction:
Teeth removed for orthodontics
Does Jaw Bone Grow Back?
Once your supporting jawbone starts deteriorating, it can’t grow back naturally. However, with a dentist’s help, you can restore lost bone and return your jaw to its natural strength using two methods: bone grafts and dental implants. With a bone graft, you can replace the missing material by transplanting new ones in its stead. The graft uses replacement bone that has either been:
Taken from elsewhere in your body, usually the chin
Donated from an animal or another person
Or synthesized in a lab
Grafts, however, don’t stop this future bone from eventually disappearing as well. They merely slow it down. Only a dental implant can stop resorption in its tracks. Implants are replacement teeth inserted directly into the jaw using a metal post or screw. This post creates nearly the same level of stimulation and pressure that a natural tooth does, fooling the jaw into thinking a real tooth is still there. With implants, there is little to no chance of any resorption occurring and weakening your jaw.
We recommend starting the dental implant process as soon as possible, even on the same day as your extraction, if possible. Implants require a significant amount of bone already in place to support them. Patients who wait too long will have already resorbed too much and will require a bone graft to restore the lost tissue. You and your prosthodontist must then wait at least four to six months after your grafting surgery before starting the implant process. Two of the top reasons implants fail within the first year is because there isn't enough alveolar bone support or the graft doesn't heal and integrate long enough.
What Is The Best Option For Replacing Missing Teeth?
Most dentists agree that dental implants are the best tooth replacement option available. By preserving your natural jaw bone, they keep your smile healthier and stronger than bridges or dentures. They are also the only ones to look and behave as a real tooth does.
A traditional dental implant uses three crucial parts:
A titanium implant post embedded in the jaw
A dental crown to restore the appearance and function of a real tooth
An abutment to connect the whole tooth together
With enough time in advance to plan your treatment, we can begin the implant process immediately following your tooth removal. However, your new tooth won't be complete in a single visit. Each piece requires a separate surgery with sufficient healing time after. The most important recovery process comes after the implant is inserted in the jaw. The titanium we use allows the post to fuse with and reinforce the bone in a process called "osseointegration." This usually takes four to six months as we want to be sure your mouth is healthy enough to move forward. The entire dental implant procedure often takes between six to eight months, but this may be extended if bone grafting is necessary.
Most standard dental implants only replace a single or two connected teeth at a time. However, other variants allow us to customize your new teeth for your specific smile needs.
Mini Dental Implants
When there isn't enough bone support for a standard tooth implant, your prosthodontist may recommend using mini dental implants instead. These fake teeth use smaller implant posts, requiring less alveolar bone to succeed.
All-on-4 Dental Implants
All-on-4 implants allow our patients to replace a full mouth of missing teeth with implants. An entire arch of new teeth is supported on four implants distributed along the jaw, where they are screwed in and secured. They are often considered the fixed alternative to dentures.
How Much Do Dental Implants Cost?
One of the most critical factors determining whether a patient chooses implants or another replacement tooth is cost. Dental implants' price depends on several key elements:
Number of teeth replaced
Type of implant
Type of crowns used
Cost of tooth extraction
Type of dental sedation, if necessary
If bone grafting is required
In many cases, dental insurance does not include implants coverage. Those that do often only pay for part of the crown's price rather than the full implant. However, we want to ensure you never worry about your dental work's cost. We offer multiple alternative financing options to keep your implants affordable. To learn more, please call us at (626) 325-0331 to schedule a consultation with our dentists.
What Are The Alternatives To Dental Implants?
Dental implants are the only fake teeth that prevent resorption. However, there are other ways our South Pasadena prosthodontists can minimize the damage and restore your smile’s beauty and function.
Unlike implants, dental bridges aren’t inserted into the jaw but instead use nearby natural teeth to anchor it. The prosthetic is made of two dental crowns attached on either end of your new teeth. Once the teeth on either end of the missing tooth gap are shaved down, the crowns can be fitted on top, allowing your fake teeth to rest in the space between.
A single dental bridge can replace between one and four missing teeth, making it much more cost-effective than implants. However, they don’t last as long. On average, patients keep their tooth bridge for 10 to 15 years before needing to replace them, compared to implants’ 25 years. This is due to the pressure your prosthetic places on neighboring teeth combined with bone loss.
Dentures can replace anywhere from a few to a whole smile of missing teeth, though they are not fixed in place like implants and bridges. There are two typical denture types, depending on how many teeth you need to replace: partial and complete dentures. Partial dentures allow your prosthodontist to replace any amount of teeth as long as it is less than a full arch and there are enough healthy teeth to secure the denture. The denture is held in place by resting their base against your remaining teeth, and they can fasten more firmly using thin metal clamps.
Complete dentures, as their name suggests, replace an entire arch of teeth with a single appliance. Rather than supporting themselves on remaining teeth, these dentures instead use a patient's gum and jaw structure. By being fitted perfectly to the jaw's shape, complete dentures are held solidly in place without needing denture glue or adhesive. Over time, however, resorption will warp the jaw's shape. You will need to eventually replace the denture within 5 to 7 years.
Dental implants are incredibly flexible to the demands of patients’ smiles, and they can also work in tandem with dentures and bridges. Denture implants, or permanent dentures, secure themselves primarily on the implant rather than remaining teeth or the gums and jaw. This provides more stability when eating and speaking, and the implants prevent your bone from resorbing as quickly as it does with regular dentures. In many cases, implant dentures can last an extra decade or two longer.
Implant-supported dental bridges use a similar method to implant dentures. Rather than attaching themselves to your healthy teeth, requiring those teeth to be filed down, the crowns are placed on implants. This change allows you to replace a minimum of three teeth at a time while retaining bone mass and keeping pressure off neighboring teeth. With great care, your bridge can last more than two decades and the implant itself a lifetime.