Many people begin to lose their teeth as they age for various reasons. When this happens, the bone that held the tooth in place no longer has a “job” therefore it begins to deteriorate. When a person loses their teeth, the jawbone that originally supported the teeth will begin to atrophy due to lack of use. If the tooth is not replaced within a few months, the bone could deteriorate to the point that a bone graft would be needed in order to replace the tooth and keep the jaw framework in place. You could also suffer bone loss due to gum disease or other trauma to the jaw. Bone grafting procedures are done in order to restore the jaw to it’s previous form to allow for dental procedures and keep the structure of the skin and muscles on the face in place for a better cosmetic look. According to Wikipedia, “Bone generally has the ability to regenerate completely but requires a very small fracture space or some sort of scaffold to do so. Bone grafts may be autologous (bone harvested from the patient’s own body), allograft (cadaveric bone usually obtained from a bone bank), or synthetic material with similar mechanical properties to bone. Most bone grafts are expected to be reabsorbed and replaced as the natural bone heals over a few months’ time.”
Before the revitalization of dental implants in the late 70’s and early 80’s, prosthetic oral surgery was done in an effort to build a base that was stable enough to hold dentures in place if the jaw was severely atrophied. These procedures involved taking bone from the patients’ thighs and sometimes included skin grafts. This solution was not the best solution; the dentures didn’t fit properly and were uncomfortable for the wearer, but was what was available at the time.
With the contemporary approach to preventative dentistry and the introduction of dental implants, these drastic procedures are mostly a thing of the past. With the evolution of modern dentistry over the years a denture wearer is able to wear their dentures more comfortably and feel more confident. With dental implants, the need for grafting bone is decidedly reduced; most cases only require a minimally invasive procedure and can be done in the oral surgeon’s office. There are also other alternatives to harvesting the patients’ own bone such as using processed bone that is harvested from certain animals or cadavers. There are also synthetic options available. The animal bones are sterilized and any organic matter is removed leaving just the mineral content. This bone is then used as a “placeholder” and through the process of “guided tissue generation” the body will begin to absorb the bone and the patient will biochemically grow their own bone back, in place of the animal bone.
These are all very good options should a patient need a dental implant or dentures, but the best way to prevent this happening to you is to maintain good oral health care including twice yearly dental check ups, twice daily brushing, daily flossing and good dietary habits. If you have any questions about your dental care, call the office of Lynn Dental Care today to schedule a consultation.