Dental implants are to bone what a house is to a foundation.
For a dental implant to be a success, it needs enough bone to integrate with and to be supported by. If a patient has experienced bone loss, this could greatly affect their implant.
Before you and your dentist can determine if you don’t have enough bone for an implant, you’ll need to know exactly what constitutes bone loss.
What Is Bone Loss And How Is It Diagnosed?
Bone loss (aka osteoporosis) is basically when the bones are more fragile and more likely to be damaged. When bone loss occurs in the jawbone, this can negatively affect the performance of a dental implant.
And you definitely don’t want that.
The main way your dentist can determine if you have bone loss and if it will affect getting a dental implant is through a bone density test. This test uses X-rays to measure the number of grams of calcium and other bone minerals are included in one section of bone.
Causes Of Bone Loss
Several things can cause bone loss, and it’s important to know what they are so you can call your dentist if you experience any of them.
- Loss of a tooth (bone in that area can gradually shrink)
- Gum disease
- Injury to a tooth, gum, or jawbone
- A developmental defect
If you run into any of the above issues, you should consult your dentist and schedule a checkup.
How To Prevent Bone Loss
If you haven’t had any bone loss or if you have but want to prevent further loss, the best thing to do is to get a dental implant or some sort of denture. This is assuming the bone loss doesn’t prevent an implant in the first place.
You can also keep good oral hygiene with brushing, flossing, and see your dentist regularly. Other preventative measures include eating a healthy diet, getting enough calcium, and taking probiotics. And smoking is always bad for your overall mouth health and bone growth.
Can You Get Dental Implants If You Have Bone Loss?
So why does bone loss matter so much when it comes to dental implants?
To properly place a dental implant, the dentist needs sufficient bone to screw in the support mechanism. The main reason implants can last so long and be so durable is because of the bone foundation. The implant actually bonds with the bone during the osseointegration period.
But there are ways around this so you can get a dental implant despite having bone loss.
Bone Loss Repair For A Dental Implant
There are a few methods your dentist can use to prepare your mouth for a dental implant after you’ve had bone loss.
Your dentist can perform a bone graft, which is when they take bone from elsewhere in your body (like your chin or hip) and place it in the mouth where the implant will go. They can also do a bone graft with artificial materials.
If you do have to get a bone graft, the recovery time could differ from a standard dental implant. The recovery time depends on the type of bone graft.
- If the bone comes from your own body, rather than synthetic bone or bone mineral processed from animal sources, it should heal quicker and better.
- If the bone is in the form of a block, it will take longer to heal than if it’s in particle form.
- The amount of blood supply at the site of the implant will affect the healing time.
- The older the patient, the longer the recovery time tends to be.
With a sinus lift, your dentist will essentially lift your upper jaw by putting some of your bone into the maxillary sinus, the area above the back teeth on either side of the nose. They will do this when the back part of the upper jaw doesn’t have sufficient bone for dental implants.
A ridge expansion is a type of bone graft and is really only done when the jaw isn’t wide enough for implants. After this procedure, the dentist can place the implants, some do this right away while others prefer to wait several months for complete healing.
Distraction (separating two pieces of bone) osteogenesis (forming of new bone) is another bone grafting option. It’s often used to make the jawbone taller (or any direction) to better support implants. The dentist will cut some bone (separating it from the jawbone) then they will place a titanium device using pins and screws in between this separated piece of bone and the jawbone. Each day, your dentist will unscrew the device a little bit, making the jawbone “taller” over time.
Risks Of Bone Augmentation
With any surgery or procedure, there are risks involved, regardless of how simple it may be. Generally, procedures involve the risk of bleeding, infection, and bad reactions to anesthesia.
In addition to those, bone grafts have additional risks:
- Nerve injury
- The body rejecting the bone graft
- The body reabsorbing the bone graft
You can speak with your doctor about these risks and how to minimize them.
Success Rate Of Bone Augmentation
Despite the risks of bone augmentation, it has a high success rate. Obviously, these surgeries are not 100% successful — every patient and procedure is different.
However, according to a study by National Center for Biotechnology Information, bone grafting for dental implants was anywhere from 74-85 percent successful, following patients from 3-5 years.
Crestal Bone Loss Around Dental Implants
Just as before getting an implant, certain factors can lead to bone loss after an implant, like gum disease, cavities, infection, and injury to a tooth, gum, or jawbone. But dentist debate why bone loss happens after the placement of dental implants even without these factors occurring.
But one thing is for certain — it can happen. So how can you treat bone loss post-placement? The first thing to do is contact your dentist for an official diagnosis and treatment options. But there are some treatments you can do yourself.
How To Treat Bone Loss After An Implant
The main source of treatment for post-dental implant bone loss will be the resources and medication your dentist prescribes. Other than that, you can follow the steps for preventing bone loss, like maintaining good oral hygiene, eating a balanced and healthy diet, ensuring you get plenty of calcium, and taking probiotics.
Because of all the terrible effects of bone loss, the best thing to do is keep good oral hygiene and visit your dentist regularly.
The house that is your dental implant needs a healthy and firm foundation.
But just in case, now you know what bone loss is and how it affects your teeth. This good knowledge to have before the fact.