Dental implants are a great way to replace teeth or repair teeth as needed. Many people have turned to using dental implants in lieu of dentures in some scenarios. Dental implants are a newer technology in the dental world. As technology advances, it only makes sense that we would learn new and better procedures for certain things.
Just think about where dentistry started. Things like dentures were made out of wood. Teeth that were a problem were often just pulled with no replacement for them. Fast forward several centuries and you find modern technology with the advantage of something like dental implants.
Dental implants attach to the bone within your mouth. So, what happens if you don’t have enough bone for an implant? Take a look at this guide to learn more about the process and your options.
How Do Dental Implants Work?
Dental implants require implant surgery. Often there is prep work that happens before the implants are put in. You see these are perfectly fitted and formed to your mouth to fill in where a tooth needs to be pulled or is perhaps even missing. It’s a tooth replacement, much like dentures or dental bridges might be. The difference is that these are permanently implanted into your mouth.
The dental implant gets attached to your jawbone to be held in place. This requires the bone and the implant to fuse together so that the implant holds. Where your natural teeth have roots that connect to the bone, your implant uses a titanium post instead. However, the concept is the same overall.
Dental implants are designed to be long-term or even permanent solutions, rather than something like dentures that you can remove as needed.
The Jawbone and Tissue
Notice that the implant gets directly attached to your jawbone with a post. Part of the healing process is then that your jawbone and the post will fuse together to create a firm bond for the dental implant to stay in place.
However, for that process to work, your jawbone has to be strong enough and have enough bone to not only firmly hold the implant but to fuse to the implant and provide that strong bond. This is a very important part of the process because if the bone doesn’t fuse or create a lasting bond, you end up with an implant that won’t last and instead loosens and falls out.
Over time, our jawbones do lose bone density. This could affect the ability for your implant to fuse and be strong like it should be. The factor that affects this the most is typically how long it has been since the tooth in question was lost or degrading in quality and the time span between that occurrence and getting the dental implant. The longer the gap in time, the more likely you are to face problems with the jawbone.
Strengthening the Jawbone
If you’ve been told you don’t have a strong bone or not enough bone for a dental implant, it doesn’t mean that you’re just out of luck. There are other options to create the proper bone support for implants. This will be a process that requires more than one step, but it may be worth it if you want successful dental implants.
The best way to strengthen the jawbone is to use a bone graft. The bone grafting process ultimately takes bone from another part of your body and grafts it to the location in which the implant needs to be placed.
Let’s take a closer look at bone grafting.
The Bone Graft Process
The bone grafting will be its own procedure and will need to be completed before dental implants and allowed to heal. This also provides the opportunity to determine whether it will be successful and strengthen the jawbone enough for you to receive dental implants.
Bone grafts are often taken from your own bone, but they could be used from a bone donor. Most dental offices that perform these procedures know how to make them as minimally invasive as possible to get the job done successfully.
If you are having teeth extracted for the placement of dental implants, it’s often recommended to get the bone grafting taken care of right away so the bone can begin grafting as is needed. While bone can be taken from your body or a donor, they also have the ability to use synthetic bone grafts in some cases.
The bone grafting process might leave you with some discomfort or potential swelling during the healing process. You should also be aware that the bone graft takes several months to heal within your jaw. This could delay the dental implant process until your jawbone is ready.
While the bone graft process is the most common source for strengthening your jawbone, there are some additional dental implant procedures that are used occasionally as well.
Let’s review a few of those.
A ride expansion is similar to a bone graft. In most cases, this is used if your jawbone simply isn’t wide enough for an implant. However, there isn’t an extensive healing process between the ridge expansion and the placement of the implant. This could depend on the dentist’s office. The graft is placed to expand the ridge of the jaw, but the jaw already had enough bone in it. You simply needed more space.
A sinus lift might be an alternative to dental implants as well. This doesn’t really add bone to the jaw but rather lifts the height of the by adding bone to the maxillary sinus area. This can be effective if the area of concern for your dental implants is on the upper jaw in the back portion. The sinus lift might negate the need for a bone graft in this case.
Distraction or Distraction Osteogenesis
This particular procedure is primarily for bone that is short within the jawbone. It’s used to increase the height by separating two pieces of bone and creating distance between them. In most cases, the intent is to make the jawbone taller, but it can actually be used to make it shorter as well.
This procedure is an invasive procedure and not a common choice. It requires a device to be inserts into your jawbone through a surgical procedure. You will unscrew the device just slightly each day, causing the bone to expand and distance. Over time, the distance will fill in with bone as well.
Are Dental Implants Successful?
Keep in mind that the most common need to facilitate a dental implant is a bone graft.
You might have sufficient bone and be able to get a dental implant without any aid. The good news is that even though there is no guarantee, most dental implants are successful.
Receiving a bone graft or using one of these other procedures does not make them unsuccessful. The research shows a 95% overall success rate for dental implants. That does leave some risk of a failed implant but it’s certainly not the norm.