Dental implants offer a natural looking and feeling tooth replacement due to the implant's jawbone-supported root. The root placement requires healthy jawbone that has sufficient density, width, and height to properly fuse around the implant during healing to hold the root firmly in place. Problems with your jawbone could make placing a dental implant difficult or impossible -- for the time being. There are a couple of ways your dentist can work around jawbone issues to still allow you to have a dental implant.
Lack of Jawbone Density: Bone Graft
Jawbone density can suffer due to the loss of the tooth, infection damage, or an underlying health condition. A lack of sufficient density can cause the implant to fail osseointegration, which is the vital healing stage when the bone heals tightly around the implant root. Osseointegration failure can cause the implant to become loose or fall out due to the lack of bone support.
Your dentist can potentially fix your bone density problem with a bone graft. The graft procedure can either use bone from elsewhere in your mouth, assuming the density problem isn't present throughout, or use a donor or synthetic bone source. The graft bone is spliced into the region where the dental implant is needed and then allowed to heal until the donor bone and original bone fuse. The dental implant procedure can then begin.
The one potential downside to this route is that the bone graft procedure takes a decent amount of healing time that adds on to the already lengthy treatment and healing time associated with a dental implant. But your dentist can potentially place a temporary implant while you wait for the bone to heal.
Narrow Jawbone Ridge: Subperiosteal Implants
A narrow jawbone ridge usually doesn't happen due to an illness or damage; some people are simply born with narrow jawbones. A bone graft isn't a great solution to fixing a narrow ridge due to the amount of graft material that would be required and the difficulty in placing the grafts all the way up each side of the jawbone. A simpler solution would be for the dentist to switch to a subperiosteal dental implant.
Subperiosteal implants don't have the jawbone-supported root. The implant instead has a small metal plate that hooks down over the top of the narrow jawbone ridge for support and is further held in place once the soft tissue heals back over the plate. The end result looks as natural as a traditional dental implant but might not feel as natural due to the lack of jawbone support. But a subperiosteal implant will involve less treatment time because you wont' need to let your jawbone heal.
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