The time to consider having a dental implant is before it is ever extracted. As soon as the tooth is extracted the bone will begin to shrink. You can not stop this from happening. For some it happens faster than others, but for most it only takes a couple of months to lose a lot of bone. Generally you can not see the bone loss because it happens under the gum.
If the situation is ideal the tooth can be extracted and an implant placed at the same time or very soon after the extraction.
The old adage “if you don’t use it, you will lose it” applies to the bone in your mouth too! If you stopped using your right arm entirely for a few weeks, it would shrink and become less functional. You may have to undergo physical therapy to regenerate its strength and function.
Once a tooth is extracted, the bone that once surrounded that tooth is no longer stimulated by the force put on it when you chew. Because there is no force or daily stimulation to the bone, it shrinks. It shrinks very quickly and will continue to do so until an implant is placed.
A bridge does not prevent bone loss. A denture or partial accelerates bone loss.
So being evaluated for implants before you ever had an extraction may allow you to prevent the bone loss. By preventing bone loss, you will have saved your self money, reduced the need for a bone or gum graft, and decrease the treatment time considerably. Preventing bone loss also allows for the most esthetic results possible.
To make matters worse, most of the time the other teeth will move and shift after even just one molar is removed. The teeth will begin to tilt on top of each other opening up gaps and spaces.
It is unfortunate that too many people wait so long to have the procedure done.Take care of it when it is a small problem!