There are three main ways to replace a missing tooth which has been lost due to gum disease, decay, or injury. These include fixed bridgework (a series of joined caps or crowns), dental implants, and removable partial dentures. However, another procedure has recently generated some interest as an alternative to all three popular options.
Autotransplantation is the use of a person’s own tooth as a kind of “natural” implant. The procedure involves removing a tooth in one area of the mouth and placing it in the area of the missing tooth. Autotransplantation can only be done immediately after the natural tooth has been lost or removed.
If, for example, a first molar needed to be replaced a possible option would be using the patient’s own wisdom tooth. The procedure would involve removing the first molar and preparing the socket. The wisdom tooth is then removed and placed in the site where the first molar had been removed. The tooth is then stabilized for one to two weeks to promote healing.
Research has found that autotransplantation is most successful when the patient is about 17 years old. At this age, the roots of the wisdom tooth are usually two-thirds formed and the tooth will not require root canal therapy after transplantation. If the patient is 21 years of age or older than the wisdom teeth are completely formed and the tooth will require root canal therapy about a month or so after the procedure.
Autotransplantation can be performed in any tooth in the appropriate situation. The success rate of autotransplantation is about 90% after five years, and should be considered a viable alternative to fixed bridgework, partial dentures, and titanium dental implants in some cases.