Dental implants and bone loss
A dental implant is an artificial root used as a replacement for natural tooth root, to act as a foundation for removable or fixed replacement teeth. These are usually made of titanium in the shape of a screw, which is fixed into the jaw bone, onto which the artificial teeth are placed. This then, integrates or fuses naturally with the bone, forming a strong bond.
But, to be considered suitable for dental implants, one must have adequate bone volume/structure and healthy gums. If the bone structure is too weak, thin or soft, then it may not be able to support the implant, leading to implant failure.
This can be either an issue that is already existing or one that occurs after the implant.
When a tooth is lost, the bone in and around that area will gradually start to shrink, while the rest will stay the same. This is where implants are of a great help. They maintain and preserve the jaw bone and its structure and prevent this natural shrinkage. But, there must be enough of the bone and gum for the procedure to be successful. But, if there isn’t enough bone, then these days, a procedure called Bone Augmentation is used to build back these areas before the implantation.
This can be of many types like: Bone Grafting – where bone is taken from another part of the body and then added/grafted to problem area; Sinus Elevation Lift – when the upper back jaw does not have enough bone, then the height of the upper jaw is increased by filling part of the sinus area with bone; Ridge Expansion – where the graft is done to widen the jaw; Distraction Osteogenesis – where a piece of the bone is cut, separated and then a titanium implant is inserted. The space bone and the implant is slowly increased causing the bone to grow and fill up the area.
The other type of bone loss happens after the implant procedure. This is called Peri Implantitis. This is an infectious disease that causes inflammation of the gum and bone structure around an implant area. Chronic cases can lead to severe bone loss causing implant failure. This is one of the most common complications in dental implant procedures. This can be treated vide manual or laser assisted ablation, i.e. removal of the damaged tissue, followed by antibiotics. There is no ‘ideal therapy’ for this condition, and prevention is the most important factor during the implant procedure. Proper planning, least traumatic approach, followed by continuous checkups for professional teeth and implant cleaning is considered ideal.