If you're missing teeth, dental implants are your best option for tooth replacement. They function just like your natural teeth, and they also look and feel just like natural teeth. The most important thing that you need in order to be a candidate for dental implant surgery is enough bone in your jaw to hold the implants in place. If you don't have enough bone, you may need a bone graft procedure before you can have your implants put in. Take a look at what you need to know about bone loss and replacement.
Where Did The Bone Go?
If you've been told that you've had bone loss in your jaw, you may be wondering just how you managed to lose it in the first place. It's not very pleasant to think of the bones in your body just shrinking away, and it can help to understand how that happens.
When your teeth are in their normal places, they're attached by the root to your jawbone, and their presence stimulates the bone underneath. However, when you lose teeth, the bone underneath goes unstimulated because you're not stimulating those areas when you chew. This can happen even if you're only missing one tooth – the bone underneath that empty space will be the most affected. If you lose many teeth, the bone will be affected all over. The unstimulated bone will atrophy and shrink.
Even wearing dentures can't prevent bone loss. Dentures provide only a fraction of the bite power of your natural teeth, and they don't connect with the bone. Therefore, they can't stimulate the bone. Implants, on the other hand, do connect with the bone and can help stimulate growth – you just need enough of the bone to place the implants in the first place.
What is a Bone Graft?
If you don't have enough bone to hold implants in place, your dentist can perform a bone graft procedure to give your jaw additional bone. Once you heal from that surgery, you'll have a separate procedure to put the implants in place. After the implants are in, they will stimulate the bone as you use them and prevent future bone loss.
There are several different types of bone grafts. Depending on your preference, your needs, and your medical history, your dentist may take bone from a place on your own body – like the chin or the hip – and graft that onto your existing jawbone, or the dentist may use donor bone, like bone from a cadaver. In some cases, bone grafts may even be done with bone from an animal.
What Does a Bone Graft Cost?
If you need a bone graft, the overall cost of your implant procedure will most certainly be higher. How much your costs will increase depends on what kind of bone graft you have. A graft that uses an animal or cadaver bone can cost between $200 and $1200. A graft using your own bone will cost more, because it requires two surgeries – one to extract the bone and another to implant the extracted bone in your jaw. This procedure can run as high as $2000 to $3000.
Chances are that if the dentist determines that you need a bone graft, they'll include the cost of that procedure when quoting you a price for the implants, but be sure to ask if it's included if you're not certain. Although dental insurance does not often cover implants, it may cover at least some of the cost of a medically necessary bone graft, which can save you some money. Also, your regular health insurance may cover all or part of the bone graft procedure if the bone loss stemmed from an accident or from a medical condition that's unrelated to your teeth. You may even be able to utilize both dental and medical insurance. So before you decide that the procedure is too expensive, be sure to explore the limits of what your insurance will cover.
Bone loss is an obstacle when it comes to getting dental implants, but that doesn't mean that implants are out of reach for you. Talk to your dentist about your tooth replacement options and find out if a bone graft is the key to you getting new and improved teeth to replace the ones that you've lost.