Are you thinking of dental implant surgery to replace your missing teeth?
Oral surgeons often recommend dental implants are because they fit, feel and function just like natural teeth, which certainly isn’t the case with bridges or dentures.
Dental implants are also preferred for another important reason. Unlike other tooth replacement methods, implant surgery helps prevent jawbone atrophy.
What Is Jawbone Atrophy?
Essentially, jawbone atrophy is bone deterioration associated with tooth loss.
The roots of your natural teeth act to stimulate the jawbone, keeping it strong and healthy. When teeth are missing, this stimulation is gone. As a result, the bone stops growing and begins to wear away.
Over time, atrophy can cause the shape of your jawbone to change, giving you a sunken and aged appearance. Plus, significant bone deterioration can put you at risk for losing more teeth.
How Does Dental Implant Surgery Help?
Dental implants don’t just replace your missing teeth — they also replace the missing tooth roots.
During implant surgery, a titanium post is inserted into the jawbone to fill the void the natural tooth roots once occupied. As you heal, your bone fuses around the post, firmly securing the implant in place. This process is called osseointegration, and it works to stop further jawbone atrophy. Thanks to osseointegration, dental implants can last a lifetime.
With dentures and bridges, the roots of missing teeth aren’t replaced. These tooth replacements rest on the gumline, so they do nothing to prevent bone deterioration. Atrophy is why denture- and bridge-wearers need adjustments or replacements over the years.
What if Your Jawbone Has Already Atrophied?
When missing teeth aren’t promptly replaced, atrophy can occur rapidly. According to the International Journal of Clinical Implant Dentistry, there’s often a 25 percent decrease in bone width within the first year of tooth loss. And without tooth replacement in the next few years, patients can expect up to a 40 percent decrease.
Tooth implants can prevent jawbone atrophy — but what if you already have bone deterioration? Does that mean you can’t get dental implant surgery?
No, but your tooth replacement will involve an extra step.
Dental implants need a strong foundation of bone for proper support. If your jawbone has deteriorated, a bone graft will be the first step of your implant surgery.
Bone grafting is a routine, in-office procedure in which additional bone tissue is transplanted into the jaw. Placing the graft takes a short time, and the recovery isn’t much different from a simple tooth extraction. Once healed, you’ll be ready to have your dental implants placed.
Oral surgeons recommend replacing missing teeth as soon as possible. The professional team at Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery of Utah has extensive experience with jawbone atrophy and dental implants, and we can help you decide on the right tooth replacement approach. Contact our Cottonwood Heights, South Jordan or Tooele office to schedule a dental implant surgery consultation today.