Tooth implants are possible even when you think they may not be – bone augmentation can provide the structure your mouth needs to support implants.
Some people think that they have to live with dentures because they don’t have the bone structure around the teeth to support implants. What many of my patients are happy to find out is that they are in fact able to get implants, thanks to bone augmentation.
When someone loses their teeth, the bone around the teeth slowly starts ‘resorbing’, which means it deteriorates, losing quality and quantity over time, and soon there is not enough bone support should the person decide to have the lost tooth replaced with an implant down the track. Sometimes there’s just not enough volume of bone to place the screw in. This is when bone augmentation becomes essential – though not a lot of people know about it.
Bone augmentation is the process of adding to the volume of the existing bone in the jaw around the area of a missing tooth, which enables an implant to be placed there afterwards.
The deterioration of the bone can happen anywhere in the mouth, but it’s more evident on the top jaw, and it happens a lot more there. In some cases it’s essential to do the surgical procedure to allow the implant to take place. We discover whether bone augmentation is necessary using X-rays to determine how the underlying bone looks in the jaw.
I’ve been doing bone augmentation and placing implants for almost eight years now. I do have quite a bit of experience in dealing with these more complex cases where bone augmentation is required.
Often we are able to transplant a piece of bone from elsewhere in the jaw. I could, for example, get a piece of bone from the lower jaw, shape it, and then place it with the implant in the top jaw where the bone is deficient. This works very well, because we’re just using the patient’s own bone, just transplanting a piece from the lower jaw to the top one and then using a screw to hold it all together. This type of bone augmentation gives us the volume that we need for the implant.
If there is no bone tissue available to transplant, we add to the volume of the bone using calcium crystals. The process can take time – we apply the crystals, and we then need to leave the area for around nine to 12 months, until the calcium crystals have formed new bonds in someone’s mouth and we feel we have enough volume to place the implants.
Bone augmentation is an advanced procedure—not every dentist that places implants is going to be able to do it. In addition to this, there are also a small number of patients for whom it is not a suitable treatment. It depends on your body and your ability to heal.
Where possible, we try to use the natural materials—human bone tissue. It’s just a preference – we prefer to take a holistic and biologically natural approach where possible. If it isn’t possible, then synthetic calcium crystals do the job perfectly well.