If you've recently heard about dental implants, you may know that the density of your upper and lower jaw bones is important to the implant process. If you suffer from bone loss or a deteriorating bone disease, it's important to know how this can impact your options and what you can do to ensure you still qualify for implant placement.
What Causes Bone Loss?
You risk for bone loss depends on many factors, like your age, your oral health, your diet, and any medical conditions you may have. Gum disease, if left untreated for long enough, can become periodontitis, which damages your teeth and underlying bone much more severely than typical gingivitis. Losing teeth can also expose the bone underneath and cause it to wear away or shrink faster than usual.
As you age, your bones naturally become more brittle and thin. Osteoporosis is a common bone condition that can contribute to brittleness and reduce total bone mass significantly. Patients with advanced osteoporosis typically don't qualify for traditional implants due to the risk of fracturing the jaw bone or the lack of sufficient bone mass to anchor the implant.
Can You Still Get Implants If You Suffer From Bone Loss?
Regardless of the cause of your bone loss, you may be able to get non-traditional implants or undergo surgery to improve your bone mass and allow traditional implants to be placed.
If you don't want to undergo surgery but you don't have enough bone to anchor traditional endosteal implants, you may be able to opt for subperiosteal implants, which sit on top of the bone instead of going inside of it.
Appearance-wise, these only differ from typical implants in that some of the metal framework is visible above the gum line. However, like in-bone implants, subperiosteal ones can be cleaned with brushing and flossing like normal teeth. For the most part, they function the same as endosteal prosthetics, though they do not encourage bone growth like endosteal implants, since these sit on top of the bone.
Not all patients can qualify for on-the-bone implants, however. Patients with serious osteoporosis still have a higher risk for jaw fractures using these implants, and patients with continual bone loss may experience complications down the line. For such patients, surgery to first increase bone mass may produce a much healthier base for new dental implants.
Bone Mass Improvement Surgery
Depending on the area lacking in bone mass, you can drastically improve quantity and quality of bone with reconstructive surgeries.
In the top of the mouth, it's common for there not to be enough bone for molar implants. When this happens, your dentist may refer you to a periodontic surgeon to discuss sinus augmentation surgery. During this surgery, the floor of your sinus cavity is raised and prosthetic bone or a bone graft matrix is added to the existing bone.
For thin bone in the jaw itself, ridge modification may be recommended. This procedure involves raising up the gums and inserting the new bone or prosthetic bone underneath, shoring up thin spots in the jaw.
Both procedures are accomplished with the aid of local or general anesthetic, so patient discomfort is minimal. After the surgery is complete, you'll need to wait between 4 and 12 months before getting your implants, though implants can be placed immediately during ridge modification in some special cases. Afterwards, your bones are far more likely to remain healthy and strong during and after the implant process.
Best of all, further deterioration is not as serious of a worry after the bone-in implants have been placed, since they encourage bones to grow. Depending on whether your surgery involves a bone graft or a prosthetic, the procedure itself may also result in additional bone growth.
If you suffer from bone loss, you don't have to give up on implants forever. Talk to your dentist about whether subperiosteal implants or bone mass improvement surgeries can help you. With a team of experts at your side, you'll be well on your way to realistic, permanent prosthetic teeth.