Teeth are to your mouth as a brick is to the foundation of your house. They’re an essential component that keeps everything else in place.
Fixing completely damaged or missing teeth is essential, and using dental implants is a common and durable restorative treatment approach.
However, a dental implant must have enough support from the underlying bone to succeed, support you may not have if you’ve already experienced bone loss.
So if you’re considering dental implants as the best option for you, you should check first if you have enough bone to support them. But even if you don’t, there are still ways dentistry can help you.
With this article, the Swedish Dental team will walk you through everything you need to know about dental implants, bone loss, and bone treatment options available to you.
What Are Dental Implants?
So, let’s start with the basics and understand what dental implants are before discussing your options regarding bone loss and dental implants.
A dental implant is a surgically-implanted replacement tooth root (usually made from titanium) designed to provide a strong foundation for any fixed or removable replacement teeth. These replacement teeth on the top of the implant are made to match your natural teeth and, usually, are synthetic crowns.
Implants give patients a chance to live their lives without dentures, which helps to retain the original structure of the mouth and prevent loss of bone mass.
Implants can succeed that by providing the same stimulation, your bones would get when you chew and bite since they function more or less like a real tooth.
Before starting with your restorative treatment, several appointments and consultations will be needed. Your dental professional should evaluate your overall oral health, the number of restorations you need, and what is the best approach for you.
However, things can get more complicated, and more appointments will be required if you’re already dealing with bone loss.
What Causes Bone Loss?
Several things can cause bone loss in the mouth and jaw, so it’s essential to discuss with your dentist and discover what’s going on.
For most patients, the common cause of bone loss is losing a tooth as an adult. That might not seem like a big deal, but it changes more than you realize.
When you lose teeth as a child, the structure of your mouth doesn’t change because you have adult teeth growing to replace them. However, when you lose your adult teeth, a natural replacement is no longer an option.
Losing a tooth means that you’re missing a bone that acts like a brick in the foundation of your mouth. Once it’s gone, your remaining teeth will shift to accommodate for the empty space.
Worse, the jaw bone below it no longer receives stimulation when you chew or bite (which keeps the bone healthy). When the jaw bone isn’t stimulated, your body thinks you no longer need it, and the bone begins to atrophy, losing density and gradually impacting all of the surrounding teeth.
Bone loss can also arise from common ailments like cavities, gum disease, infection, injuries to your teeth or jaw, or even a developmental defect.
Also, loose dentures, misalignment, or poor bridge work can lead to insufficient stimulation, deterioration, and, eventually, bone loss.
Lastly, one question we commonly get from some of our patients is related to bone loss after the placement of dental implants. Specifically, we’ll discuss further what causes bone loss around dental implants.
The answer here is peri-implantitis. It’s a severe inflammatory disease involving the implant’s surrounding gums and bone. When left untreated, it can lead to bone loss, making the implant loosen or even fall out.
Why Does Bone Loss Affect Dental Implants?
As mentioned above, like other bones and muscles of your body, your teeth and jaw are a “use it or lose it” situation. Therefore, when something is not stimulated or working properly, it must be replaced or dismissed.
So why do you need enough bone?
It’s actually quite simple: the main qualifier for receiving a dental implant is to have sufficient bone to support it.
Having a strong underlying foundation of healthy bones will ensure that your implants are a vital option that will last.
Additionally, keep in mind that when dental implants are placed, they help preserve the underlying bone, which gives them an additional advantage over bridges and crowns.
One of the main reasons why dental implants are so durable is that they literally bond with your real jaw bone during the osseointegration period.
The problem is that dental implants work almost exactly like a natural tooth.
So if, for example, you’ve lost too much bone in the potential implant site, your dentist won’t have enough bone to screw the implant in place.
But even if the implant can be screwed, when experiencing bone loss, there is a significant chance that the implant won’t be able to bond properly with it.
So, what happens next?
Bone Treatment Options
Fortunately, bone loss doesn’t completely prevent you from ever getting dental implants. In fact, you can still receive dental implants even if you have significant jawbone loss.
Before getting your implants, your dentist will have to reconstruct the bone you’ve lost so that the implant can be properly screwed into place.
There are several different options for doing this, depending on the extent of your bone loss, your personal preferences, and your unique situation.
Here we’ll explore two possible options: bone grafting and distraction osteogenesis.
Bone Grafting For Dental Implants
Bone grafting is a surgical procedure to restore the area of your mouth that has suffered from bone loss or need additional support. Your dentist or surgeon uses healthy bone tissue (from your own body or an artificial one) and attaches it to the jaw.
There are several periodontal options for bone grafting, including the following:
- An autogenous graft (using a bone from your own body)
- An allograft (a graft using a bone from a donor)
- A xenograft (a graft using animal bone)
- An alloplast (a graft using synthetic bone)
Our dentists here at the Swedish Dental clinic believe that a xenograft is the best bone graft material for dental implants. It is a less invasive treatment method offering a reduced surgical area.
Additionally, since there is no need for a bone transplant, as it doesn’t involve getting the tissue from the patient’s body, it is a relatively minor procedure, which causes less inconvenience for the patient.
Of course, only a dental professional can determine if you’re a qualified candidate for this treatment and decide on the required bone graft for your dental implant. If you need a thorough examination with the appropriate imaging and technology, schedule a consultation appointment with our expert team.
Distraction Osteogenesis is another technique that is used for the reconstruction of a bone. Distraction describes separating the part of the bone into two segments, while osteogenesis describes the formation of a new bone between those two segments.
Specifically, during this process, the bone is separated into two segments, and a distractor is used to slowly pull apart the two pieces, forcing the new bone to grow in between the gap.
Each day, your dentist will unscrew the device a little bit further, slowly widening the gap.
So, you can imagine that with this procedure, a shorter bone will be regenerated and become longer.
Helping You Overcome Bone Loss
With the right bone treatment, bone loss doesn’t have to hold you back from having what you deserve to restore your health and smile-one of the most essential components of who you are.
If you feel ready for the next step toward a complete restoration, don’t wait much longer–our professionals can help you get there. Dental implants are a great and durable solution, even if they might require some extra work and appointments.