If you’ve lost a tooth and want to fill in the empty space, a dental implant might be the solution. These are cosmetic replacements that have a titanium root that threads into the jawbone. Dental implants look like real teeth, and they function like them too.
Unfortunately, some people struggle with not enough bone for dental implant procedures to be effective. Without enough jawbone, the implant cannot stay in place. Not having enough bone for a dental implant does not mean that having an implant is impossible. There are solutions and treatments for people without enough bone for dental implant procedures.
Causes of Bone Loss
Bone loss happens for several reasons. The most common reasons include atrophy, infection, or trauma. Bones will atrophy when they haven’t been used, so they begin to shrink or progressively deteriorate through resorption. As people age, their bones will also go through resorption.
Dental issues like gum disease or wearing dentures can also cause bone loss. If you have had problems at some point in your bone development, the bone loss may make it difficult for a dentist to implant an artificial tooth.
Treatment Options for Those With Bone Loss
On a positive note, there are treatment options available for people without enough jawbone for a dental implant.
If you need more jawbone for a dental implant, dentists can perform a ridge expansion procedure. This is a bone graft procedure that is used when the jaw is too narrow. Dentists can insert the implant as soon as they complete the expansion, or they can choose to wait until the ridge heals. Dentists carry out this procedure in their offices and with a local anaesthetic.
A bone graft involves an overnight stay and general anaesthesia, as it requires a surgeon to remove bone from a spot in your body and graft it to your jawbone. Often, the bone comes from the hip or shin. Some surgeons are able to use bones from animal sources if you would prefer.
Another choice is a procedure called a sinus elevation or a sinus lift. A surgeon fills the maxillary sinus with bone to increase the height of the upper jaw. Dentists might recommend this procedure if the upper jaw does not have enough bone to sustain an implant. The maxillary sinus is above the back teeth on the sides of the nose.
Distraction osteogenesis is a procedure that separates bone into two pieces to increase the size of the bone. The procedure is popular because it can increase bone size in any direction.
Usually, a surgeon will cut the jawbone and then insert a titanium connector with pins or screws to hold the bone in place. The patient unscrews the titanium connector a little bit each day, allowing the bone to grow broader or taller. Eventually, a surgeon removes the connector; then, the dentist can insert the implant.