Dental replacement options vary widely in fit, stability, and cost. But a common factor is that most dental replacements require a strong jawbone for support. This is particularly true of dental implants. If your bone is weak or decayed due to health problems or decay, you might think your replacement options are limited.
There are a few different ways your dentist can overcome a weak jawbone to allow you to receive your preferred dental replacement.
A bone graft is a common bone augmentation procedure typically ordered ahead of a dental implant. Traditional dental implants feature a jawbone-implanted root that needs strong bone to hold the root firmly in place.
The dentist or oral surgeon can take bone from elsewhere in your mouth or from your hip to build up the bone in the implant area. If you don’t’ have healthy bone elsewhere, or don’t’ want to undergo an additional surgery, then synthetic or bovine bone can be used instead.
During the graft procedure, the dentist will place the removed bone into the weakened section and stitch the gums closed. You will have a healing period during which the two sections of bone will fuse together in a process called osseointegration. Once that process is complete, the dental implant can be inserted.
A sinus lift is a specialized form of bone graft that’s often necessary when replacing teeth on the upper jaw. Part of the sinus cavity stretches directly above the upper jawbone, which makes it easy for an implant to accidentally pierce the sinus. The sinus lift procedure moves the sinus out of the way.
The dentist will cut through the bone to access the sinus cavity. The sinus will be pushed up and the grafted bone scooted into the place vacated by the sinus. This holds the sinus up into its new place while the bone starts its healing process.
A ridge expansion bone graft is performed when your jawbone isn’t wide enough for the dental replacement. The dentist will split open the affected section of bone and place graft bone down in the hole. When osseointegration occurs, the fused bone segments will make the jawbone wider.
Ridge expansion is most commonly used for dental implants, but can also help if you have a severely narrow jaw and want dentures as your dental replacement. Traditional dentures have a plate on the bottom that fits snugly over your jawbone. Too narrow of a jawbone won’t offer the proper support for when the dentures take on the pressure of biting.
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