Replacing Bone for Dental Implants

Dental implants are becoming the most popular tooth replacement option for adults. However, many patients do not have healthy enough jaw bones to support dental implants, due to previous issues with severe gum disease. Fortunately, this doesn’t mean that these patients cannot get dental implant treatment, it just means that they may need to have a healthy bone replacement to strengthen their jawbones. Below is more information on additional treatments needed with dental implant treatment, including replacing bone for dental implants.

Gum Disease and Bone Loss

Untreated gum disease cannot only lead to tooth and gum tissue loss, but also bone loss. Periodontitis, or advanced gum disease, is a bacterial infection that attacks the gum tissue and the bone in the jaws. But how does gum disease cause bone loss? Here are the stages:

  • Stage 1: Gingivitis: Neglecting to perform daily oral hygiene practices like routine brushing and flossing will allow bacteria in the dental plaque to build up along the gumline, causing inflammation and irritation in the gums. This stage of gum disease, called gingivitis, is when the gums swell, turn pink due to irritation, and start to bleed easily.
  • Stage 2: Slight Periodontal Disease: In the second stage of periodontal disease, the infection has started to spread to the bone. The bacteria living in the plaque becomes more aggressive, attacking the bone. At this stage, increasing oral hygiene will not reverse or stop the gum disease and more serious treatment is necessary. Signs of slight periodontal disease include increased swelling or redness of the gums, bad breath, bleeding gums, and pockets developing between the gums and teeth.
  • Stage 3: Moderate Periodontal Disease: At stage three, the same symptoms continue to occur, but the pockets grow deeper to 6-7 millimeters, allowing more bacteria to attack the tissue, bones, and immune system. At this stage deep cleaning treatments are needed to remove the deposits of bacteria that are deeply rooted in your gums.
  • Stage 4: Periodontitis: At this advanced stage, the growing infection attacks the bone and tissues that keep teeth in place. Left untreated, the teeth will become loose and eventually fall out. Periodontal disease is the most common cause for tooth loss in adults.

If you are wondering if you are developing early symptoms of gum disease, you should schedule an appointment with your dentist. Symptoms of gum disease include persistent bad breath, swollen or bleeding gums, sensitive teeth, and pain when chewing.

Bone Grafts and Gum Disease

Fortunately, dental treatments such as periodontal surgery, are available, to help reverse damage caused by periodontal disease. One of these dental treatment options that is commonly used to treat gum disease damage is bone grafting. During periodontal surgery the periodontist will place a bone graft to help regenerate supporting bone. During the procedure the gums are folded back, and the infected gum tissue and bacteria below are cleaned out. Next, the bone graft material is placed below the gums. This material works with the body to help develop new healthy bone. Bone grafts can work to repair damage caused by gum disease and can help boost the chances of keeping the teeth.

Types of Bone Grafts

Thanks to advances in dental technologies, there are several different types of bone grafting available. Here are the different types of bone grafts available:

  • Autograft: Sometimes a patient’s own bone will be used for the bone graft. This bone is obtained from the patient’s hip bone or from the back of the jaw.
  • Allograft: Some providers prefer to use healthy bone taken from a human donor for a bone graft.
  • Xenograft: Alternatively, bone from an animal, usually a cow, has been shown to help generate healthy bone growth.
  • Alloplast: More recently, bone grafts using synthetic material containing calcium, phosphorous and hydroxylapatite have become popular.

Unless you have a strong preference or aversion to one form of bone graft or another, your dentist will likely make this decision based on your oral health and their experiences with bone grafting. If you have questions about the types available, ask your dentist to explain the advantages and disadvantages of the different bone grafting materials.

Bone Replacement for Dental Implants

Dental implants are one of the most popular choices to replace missing teeth. Unfortunately, securely placing a metal post into the jawbone requires a strong and healthy jawbone to provide a stable base for the dental implants. If there is not enough healthy bone present, a bone graft may be needed before an implant treatment can be performed. In these situations, a dentist will likely opt to perform a bone grafting procedure prior to attempting the implant procedure. In the bone grafting procedure, a piece of bone, either removed from another part of the body, or from a donor, is transplanted to the jawbone below the gumline. It is also possible for this procedure to use commercially available artificial bone. After the bone graft has been placed, patients will need to wait several months for the transplanted bone to stimulate healthy bone development and be ready for a dental implant treatment. Overtime, new bone growth will replace the grafted bone material. In some cases, if only minor bone grafting is needed, a dentist may decide to perform the grafting at the same time as the implant placement surgery.

Are You a Good Candidate for Dental Implant Treatment?

If you are interested in dental implant treatment, but have a history of gum disease and tooth loss, you may be concerned about the health of your jawbones and if you qualify as a good candidate for implant treatment. Fortunately, there are many treatment options available to make dental implants possible for almost all patients interested. For patients who have had bone loss and have weak jawbones, bone grafting is a good treatment to replace bone in the jawbones. The bone grafting procedure may add a few months on to the overall tooth replacement process, but it will increase the likelihood of success for a dental implant treatment.

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