My dentist told me I have a molar that has decayed below the gumline, and that it has to come out. She referred me to an endodontist who confirmed that diagnosis. They both say there is no way to save the tooth, and that the best course of action is to get a dental implant.
I do not have dental insurance, and a dental implant is quite expensive. How long do I have before the missing tooth starts to mess things up? Both my dentist and the endodontist said I had to get something in place “soon”, but they did not say why, specifically. I’d like some time to save up for this procedure, but I guess I could finance it if it is important to move quickly.
Sarah in New York
You’ll definitely want to have the decaying tooth removed as soon as possible, to minimize the impact on the surrounding teeth and root structures. After removal of a tooth, the teeth surrounding the empty socket start to “drift” in just a couple of weeks. The tooth that corresponds to the missing tooth in the opposite jaw (the “opposing tooth”) will begin to grow to meet the tooth that is no longer there. This is called super-erupting. The teeth on either side of the empty socket will start to tip into the empty space.
Even though these are normal, natural teeth movements in response to a lost tooth, this motion still plays havoc with your bite and alignment. Changes in your bite and alignment can lead to headaches and TMJ issues. The longer you let the situation continue, the more time consuming and costly it will be to correct.
In the short term, your dentist should give you some kind of temporary space holder to prevent the teeth from drifting while the socket heals, and any infection clears. After the root form is placed, it will need several weeks to integrate with the bone of the jaw.
If you share your financial concerns with your dentist, she may be able to find a way to work with you to get you the care you need as expediently as possible. Certainly it is worth asking, because you do not want to delay this procedure if at all possible.