Why a Dental Implant Needs a Sturdy Foundation

Dentist Blog

You wouldn't build a house without first building a sufficiently strong foundation. It's the same with dental implants, and the foundation in this instance is your jaw bone. When a tooth has been missing for some time, it's likely that its foundation has also become inadequate. But why does bone that no longer supports a tooth lose its mass? And how can this be corrected when you need a dental implant?

Constant Stimulation

As far as your body is concerned, the loss of a permanent tooth is also permanent. Your body knows that a replacement tooth won't be growing, and this triggers changes in your alveolar ridge, which is the portion of your jaw that holds your dental implants. When the bone doesn't have to support the pressure experienced by a tooth, calcium and other nutrients are diverted. Your alveolar ridge maintains its density due to constant stimulation from the weight applied by the tooth attached to it. 

Reduced Mass

When this stimulation is gone, loss of bone mass follows. The bone loses some of its height and width, leading to a section of bone with reduced mass. While this is just your body being as efficient as possible, it's not exactly convenient when you need a dental implant.

Restoring Mass

Without sufficient bone mass to support the implant (and the pressure exerted on the prosthetic tooth that will ultimately be attached to it), your implant will be unsuccessful. Bone grafting (restoring lost bone mass) is a common solution. In most cases, a small amount of grafting material is applied to the empty dental socket, which then integrates with the surrounding bone. There are a few options for grafting material:

  • A synthetic bone substitute, usually made of a calcium apatite such as hydroxyapatite
  • Animal bone from a compatible species (typically a cow)
  • Bone tissue from a human donor
  • Your own bone tissue, extracted from elsewhere in your body (generally from inside your mouth or your hip)

Your dentist will choose the most suitable grafting material depending on your specific needs and material availability—essentially whatever is going to offer the greatest compatibility in your particular case. 

It's very common for bone grafting to be a mandatory step before dental implant placement. The overall process will take longer since you'll need time for the graft to be integrated into your existing bone tissue, but it's worth the wait. A dental implant is intended to replicate the look and function of a natural tooth, but this is only possible with an adequate foundation.


25 October 2021

Dental Health: Not To Be Taken For Granted

As a retired dentist, I work with charities which visit developing countries and educate children about dental care. It gives me great satisfaction to revisit these communities and see how proud the children are of their efforts. I am acutely aware that good dental hygiene can help prevent a range of serious conditions when these children become older. I started this blog because it greatly distresses me that many people in Australia do not seem to care for their teeth as much as children in these poor communities. This is happening despite ready access to items like toothbrushes and toothpaste which are luxuries in the places I visit. It is my hope that this blog encourages you not to take dental health for granted. My greatest wish is that you can be as inspired as the children I see in my charity work. Please read on and enjoy.