When Good Teeth Go BadFeb 01, 2024 12:00AM ● By Dr. Holly Thompson
When a tooth goes bad, either painfully or without any sensation at all, what are the options? How can a tooth be replaced? Most people are unaware of the dangers or benefits of various treatment options unless they have experienced a bad tooth firsthand. It is important to choose a long-term solution instead of a stepping stone to a worse outcome. Here are the four options that currently exist for patients facing this decision.
Implant: Implants can be placed immediately after the tooth is pulled out or after the extraction site has healed. First, the implant body is placed into the jawbone where the tooth roots were. Then, when it is stable, a “cap” or crown is placed on the implant. This mimics the tooth most closely in both appearance and function.
Root Canal: This is the only option in which the tooth is kept in the mouth. A general dentist or an endodontist will drill out the roots of the tooth and fill them with materials designed to slow the development of nasty bacteria in the teeny-tiny spaces inside the tooth. Then the general dentist will restore the top of the tooth with a crown.
Bridge: First, the bad tooth is extracted. Next, the general dentist buzzes down the two teeth on either side of the now missing tooth and places crowns on them with a pontic, or bridge, between. This mimics the appearance and function of the missing tooth.
Partial Denture: The bad tooth is extracted, and a removable oral prosthetic is designed to fit into the mouth with a fake tooth on it.
All of these options have their place. A root canal is a good option for a child’s permanent tooth to hold the space while the child is still developing. A bridge works well if the adjacent teeth are already crowned. Partial dentures are a very financially conservative solution. However, all-ceramic implants are the best long-term solution to a missing tooth.
There are some inherent challenges presented with the latter three options. Every root canal fails eventually, as it is impossible to fully and permanently sterilize the organic structure of a tooth. As time goes on, the tooth becomes a factory of bacteria and toxins that becomes increasingly harmful to the body. This results in a continually suppressed immune system that has a domino effect of negative health outcomes.
Unfortunately, the long-term viability of bridges is also questionable. The tooth structure of the bridge-supporting teeth are simply not designed to last under the increased strain of compensating for the additional physical stresses that bridges endure, leading to an eventual 60% bridge failure rate.
With the partial denture option, or “partial,” most people are dissatisfied with the functional element. They slip, they fall out, they don’t perform well as a chewing surface, and they can easily be damaged (eaten by the dog) and need to be replaced or repaired.
The decision of what to do to replace a missing tooth is one that deserves full attention. There are benefits and drawbacks to each solution. As an investment that WILL NOT be inexpensive, your pocketbook and your body deserve a bit of time and attention researching and soul searching to see what the best option is for you.
Dr. Holly Thompson DDS, NMD is a biological dentist and a naturopathic doctor at Natural Smiles Dental Care, an integrative dental practice committed to promoting dental wellness from a whole-person approach, as oral health and overall health are very intertwined. Natural Smiles Dental Care is located at 3434 Lexington Ave. N, Ste. 700, Shoreview. For more information, call 651-483-9800 or visit NaturalSmilesDental.com.