Do I Have Enough Bone to Get Dental Implants?

teethandgumDental implants have undoubtably revolutionized the field of dentistry.

Gone are the days of grinding two or more healthy teeth to replace missing teeth with fixed bridges. Removable appliances such as partial denture or flipper, while preserving adjacent teeth from unnecessary  drilling, have their own complications. The most common complaint that I hear from people who wear them is; they don’t feel comfortable, or that they hurt to chew with. More than half of partial denture wearers (including my father) take their appliance out to eat and only use them for cosmetic reasons. Looking back, it is clear that dentistry did not have a practical answer for tooth loss until the development of dental implants.

Today, dental implants have secured their place in our field as standard of care for replacing one or multiple missing teeth. The general public is now familiar with Dental implants and ask their dentist for them specifically. Dental implants are very similar to natural teeth in shape and function. They can be covered with typical porcelain crowns just like natural teeth. On the other  hand, they require a certain volume of bone to seat securely in the jaw. Unfortunately long term gum disease and accidental loss of natural teeth leads to loss of bone. Did you know that 3 out of 4 teeth are lost due to chronic gum disease, not cavity? Obviously, if there is not enough bone to support a natural tooth, dental implants can not be placed in that space either. even worse, in the absence of stimulation provided by normal chewing, jaw bone further resorbs. It is broken down into its mineral components, which are dissolved into the bloodstream. I have written and published several articles on the phenomenon of “disuse osteoporosis”.

Naturally, many people either assume, or are told by their dentist that they are not a candidate for dental implants because they don’t have enough bone. What they don’t know (or are not told) is that bone can be regenerated. We now are able to grow new bone in places where it had previously been lost, either due to chronic gum disease or disuse. In fact bone regeneration is high on the list of the most extraordinary medical breakthroughs of twenty first century.

In the case of missing upper back teeth, many people who wanted dental implants in the past were told that their maxillary sinus has expanded and consequently they had to get removable appliance instead. But now a new outpatient surgical procedure called maxillary sinus lift (or sinus augmentation) can trigger your body to regenerate new bone to securely host the dental implants. Sinuses are air spaces in the skull, which are lined with a thin membrane. In the past we had to harvest patient’s own bone from other parts of the mouth or iliac crest to insure integration. We are now able to accomplish the same objective using demineralized freeze dried cadaver bone with the help of titanium mesh and titanium fixation screws. There is no longer a need for harvesting patient’s own bone and creating a secondary surgical site. All grafting materials used today are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and must be prepared according to their guidelines. They are specially treated to render them completely safe for human use.

Lower lost jawbone can also be replaced with similar technique. After the surgery, most patients report little or no discomfort. They are usually surprised that bone regeneration and implant placement is less painful than extracting a tooth or even root canals. Of course not everyone is a candidate for bone and gum tissue regeneration. As with any other invasive surgical procedures, certain general health guidelines must be met. However, If you have been told that you are not a candidate for dental implants because you don’t have enough bone, before choosing an alternative plan, please contact our office at 281-332-4700 and schedule a complimentary consultation with me. I might be able to help.

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