When You Have to Lose a Tooth


Posted on 4/28/2014 by Dr. Martha E. Rich
Illustration of a row of teeth where one is missing and replaced with a question mark Losing a tooth can be a surprisingly emotional experience for many people. Even if that tooth has been compromised for a long time, the idea of removing a piece of your body – no matter how small – can sometimes trigger complex and unexpected emotional reactions. Shock, denial, and grief are all common responses to the news that a tooth cannot be restored and needs to be extracted.

Certainly it is always better to keep the teeth you have if you can, but there are several circumstances that can arise in the mouth that make it impossible to save a tooth without jeopardizing the overall health of your body. Infections that cannot be controlled or breakage that is too deep or widespread are just two of the situations that can compromise your long-term health if the affected tooth is not removed. No matter how hard you might try to keep that tooth clean and protected, holding onto it at this point is probably doing you more harm than good.

Tooth extraction may represent the end of an effort to save your natural tooth, but it does not have to be the end of comfortable function or a beautiful smile. Modern extraction techniques, bone grafting, and implant placement have all transformed what was once a dead-end loss of a tooth into the gain of a restoration that may very well be stronger and healthier than your natural tooth ever was.

Extraction, bone grafting, and implant placement all sound like complex and possibly painful surgical procedures. The truth for most people, however, is that these procedures are often no more painful or difficult than getting a filling or a crown. Understanding each procedure and talking with your dentist about your specific concerns will go a long way in alleviating any apprehension you may have about each step of the treatment.

In an effort to help you begin the process of understanding these procedures, I've prepared two resource articles on removing and replacing teeth, including What is Bone Grafting?, and Implants vs. Bridges. As always, I encourage you to review these materials and bring as many questions as you have to your next regularly scheduled dental appointment. Together we can face what may be the loss of your natural tooth and discover a way to transform that loss into a gain of beauty and function without the pain or infection associated with a severely compromised tooth.

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