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A tooth transplant is the extraction of a tooth and the re-implantation of that tooth into another location. It is rare to perform a transplant from one mouth into another mouth, and most transplants are called autotransplants and involve removing and transplanting a tooth within the same mouth. The purpose of a tooth transplant is to replace a tooth lost due to decay or trauma or to fill in a gap in the mouth. Most transplanted teeth are wisdom teeth, the third molars located at the back of the mouth, which appear between the age of 17 and 25 and usually need to be extracted because they are pushing other teeth out of position or are unable to break through the gum because there is not enough room.
The technique for performing a tooth transplant begins by evaluating the health of the tooth to be transplanted and the site for the transplant. If both the tooth and the gum are strong and sound, x-rays or two dimensional pictures called orthopantomographs are taken of the tooth to be extracted and the pictures are used to prepare a replica tooth. This copy of the tooth to be extracted is used to prepare the transplantation site and tooth socket. Next, the tooth to be transplanted is carefully extracted and re-implanted in the prepared socket, and sometimes it is splinted or bound to neighboring teeth for stability. After a tooth transplant, the patient will need to eat a soft or liquid diet and avoid using the implanted tooth for many days while the area heals.
A tooth transplant will only succeed if the gum and tooth are very healthy. An unhealthy tooth will not survive the transplant, and a diseased gum will not grow to support the tooth. In addition, in order for a transplanted tooth to thrive the tooth must have at least half of its root developed prior to the transplant, it must be the right shape and size for the new site, and it cannot be significantly damaged during extraction.
Following a tooth transplant, the patient needs to watch the site of the transplant for signs of infection such as pain, excessive swelling, and fever. If not treated immediately, infection can interfere with the success of the transplant. In addition, the nerve of a transplanted tooth cannot be reconnected to send pain signals when it is decaying, so a transplanted tooth needs to be carefully monitored for cavities.
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