Upgrades can be exciting—moving on to a larger house, the latest smartphone, or maybe a new car. And, the same can apply with tooth replacements: Maybe you're ready now to upgrade your existing restoration to a dental implant, the most advanced tooth replacement method now available.
But you might encounter a speed bump in your plans: whether or not you have enough bone available for an implant. Here's why your bone may not be adequate.
Like any other cellular tissue, bone has a life cycle: older cells die and newer cells form to take their place. This process stays on track because of the forces generated when we chew, which stimulates new growth.
But that stimulus disappears when a tooth goes missing. This slows the bone growth cycle to the point that bone volume can gradually dwindle. You could in fact lose up to a quarter of bone width in just the first year after losing a tooth.
And, you'll need adequate bone to provide your implants with sufficient strength and stability, as well as the best possible appearance alongside your other teeth. If you don't have enough bone, we must either enhance its current volume or opt for a different restoration.
Fortunately, we may be able to do the former through bone augmentation or grafting. With this method, we place a graft of bone tissue in the area we wish to regenerate. The graft becomes a scaffold upon which new bone cells build upon. It's possible for grafting to produce up to 5 mm in additional width and 3 mm in height to supporting bone.
We can also use this method to prevent bone loss by placing a graft immediately following a tooth extraction. Some studies show the graft can help preserve bone up to 10 years, giving patients time to consider or prepare for a dental implant.
There are circumstances, though, where bone loss has been too extensive to make up enough ground to place an implant. If so, there are other effective and life-like restorations to replace missing teeth. But there's still a good chance augmentation can restore the bone you need for a new smile with dental implants.
If you would like more information on dental implant restorations, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Dental Implants After Previous Tooth Loss.”