Justin, I hope you have already resolved your questions, and have moved forward. I, too, am "in the middle" of this process. As a high school student at the Brevard Music Center in 1969, I fell and cracked my right upper front tooth--a local dentist "saved" the tooth, but my home dentist had to do a root canal on it at the the end of the summer. Over the years, through the neglect of continuous use of a retainer, this very tooth gradually mis-aligned itself, with the left edge slightly overlapping (to the front) its neighbor. It also slowly began and continued to darken, and about 12-15 years ago, my dentist advised me to replace it with a crown, which could be matched, color-wise, to my other teeth.
He did, indeed, make a mold of my "un-straight" alignment, but he and I agreed to install the new crown so it would be, more or less, in perfect alignment with the rest of my uppers. As Nancy Duncan advised, there was, indeed, a short but manageable transition, getting used to my "new" embouchure. The new alignment was well worth the 1-2 weeks it took to get used to it!
More recently, the old root canal itself began "resorbing"; my dentist likened it to becoming more brittle, with the increasing danger that it might just "snap off" if I did nothing. I elected to proceed with the implant, primarily since it seemed to be a more permanent AND more structurally stable option. Additionally, having a bridge would apparently involve some shaving down of the neighboring teeth, on which the bridge would anchor--and I didn't want to "intrude" on otherwise healthy, normal teeth if I could avoid doing so.
I had the whole tooth--root canal and crown--extracted, and had a bone graft, all by a referred periodontist. I've likened the bone graft to filling the extraction gap with "dental silly putty", which biologically hardens into actual bone tissue after 5-6 months--then the implant is "installed" into this thickened "bone" area, and the dentist pins the final crown into the implant.
My dentist made a mold of my alignment prior to the extraction, and made two separate devices, or "appliances" I could use after the extraction. One is the traditional "flipper", which consists mostly of a mold of my upper palate, onto which is attached a single tooth-where the new gap is. Advised that it would not hold that tooth "rock-solid" while playing, he also made another device, much like the modern clear plastic retainers used now, that molds over all the upper teeth--and he cleverly glued an artificial tooth in the appropriate gap, so that when I wear it while playing, no one can tell I'm missing a tooth. Since it goes all the way back to my upper molars, though, I can't eat with this one--it's just for playing.
Unfortunately, I encountered problems with the original bone graft--it did not "take"! While preparing to install the implant, my periodontist said there still wasn't enough bone material on which it could be properly anchored! YIKES! I consulted with another periodontist, and was prepared, just two years ago, to try again, possibly having another bone graft and simultaneously having the implant "tucked in". As would have originally been done, I would still have to wait 6+ months for all this to harden before the installment of a final crown, which would be pinned into the implant. It was about this time that I got diagnosed with stage 1 lymphoma (see my recent article in the Double Reed), so subsequent surguries were put on hold. Hopefully, I will be able to resolve this soon...until then, I am making do with my removeable appliances--definitely NOT a desireable long-term solution.
I hope this helps put some of this in perspective!