By Michael W. Herndon, DDS
There is a tendency in dentistry to advise pulling teeth with problems in favor of placing a dental implant, and why not? After all, implants do not get cavities, never need a root canal, and last forever!?! Yet this little article is about saving your own teeth for they are your best ‘implant.’ There certainly are times when a tooth is too injured to save or the expense of saving the tooth is greater than extraction and placing an implant. Indeed, the associated risks of survival over the long term if a tooth is saved may be such that it is wiser to remove the tooth and convert to a dental implant instead. Having stated this, there are times when saving the tooth is still the best treatment! There are a number of reasons that teeth may need to be extracted including catastrophic fracture, periodontal (gum) disease, extensive tooth decay, and a few other reasons. However, teeth that are slated for extraction may actually be savable and function for the lifetime of the patient with proper attention. We often think of implants being essentially permanent once placed. But over the years the bone of the jaws elongate so the teeth move with the face but the implant does not since the bone it is anchored in does not change position, meaning that the implant submerges and this is a complication that is undesirable. Your own tooth is still the best ‘implant’ you can have so take care of them! And if you have an dental implant, treat it like your own tooth and clean it well. Just remember that there may be ways to save your teeth. Make sure you know your options! Your dentist can help you know what to do.