Bone loss in the jaw is often caused by an infection that goes untreated. The result can be the loss of one or more teeth since they no longer have sufficient bone material to support the roots. When this occurs, your first concern may be about your appearance – what are the options for replacing the lost tooth? The following guide can help you understand what replacements are available.
Implants are the preferred replacement option for many people because they look and are cared for just like a natural tooth. Unfortunately, just like a natural tooth, an implant needs sufficient bone in which to bond, so they may not be the best choice if you have suffered bone loss.
If you are set on an implant, you can ask your dentist if you are a good candidate for a bone graft. If so, you will first have bone graft surgery. If the graft is successful, you can then have the implant placed.
The next best option if you want a permanent replacement is to go with a dental bridge. There are two types of bridges typically used.
A tooth-supported bridge requires healthy, well-rooted teeth on either side. The outer enamel of these teeth is ground away. Then, crowns are made to fit over the filed down supporting teeth, with a false tooth placed between them to fill in the gap from the missing tooth. The supporting crowns are then permanently affixed to the healthy teeth. This bridge can be used to support more than one tooth, so is a a good option if you lost two teeth.
The other option is a bonded bridge. You will still need healthy teeth on either side of the missing tooth, but they will not be damaged. Instead, the false tooth will have resin wings on either side, which will be bonded to healthy teeth to hold the false tooth in place. This works well if you only have one missing tooth.
Partial dentures are removable, so they aren't a permanent option. They are usually the least invasive and the least expensive option. These dentures are the best option if you have multiple missing teeth, or two missing teeth that aren't side-by-side. Partial dentures may also be used in the intervening periods between each step of bone grafting and implant placement as a temporary replacement option.
Talk to your dentist to learn more about your dental reconstruction options after bone loss.