Dental Implants and Osseointegration: A Brief Overview

A tooth goes right into your jawbone. It’s one of the reasons it hurts so much when it comes loose, gets a cavity, or breaks. In order to replace a tooth, you must be able to ensure that the tooth attaches directly to the jawbone for support. The process is known as osseointegration.

Dental implants are not a novel idea. They’ve been around for over a century. But it wasn’t until modern days that scientists began understanding the process of osseointegration and found a metal that would easily integrate with the bone. For laypeople, it’s impossible to communicate how important that last factor is. If the dental implant’s abutment does not fuse to the jaw bone, then it’s a bit like sticking a candle in a candle holder. It’ll fall out eventually.

Today, scientists not only have the perfect metal to use for dental implants, we also understand how to regrow bone better than ever before. This has created an opportunity for those with advanced dental issues to restore original-looking teeth and not rely on dentures or other remedies that are mostly cosmetic in nature.

Osseointegration and Dental Implants

When we think about bones, we think about hard objects that have a definite shape. However, bones are organic objects that have a default shape but can be reshaped to look like just about anything. As a (somewhat unpleasant) example, the practice of foot binding deformed the shape of the feet to make them look smaller. Women who were subjected to foot binding had difficulty walking but were highly sought after by rich men. Dentists don’t do this, of course, but we do change the aesthetics of a patient’s mouth and we don’t manipulate the bone to accomplish this.

The titanium abutments used in dental implants have shown the greatest success in binding to the bone. But what happens if there isn’t enough bone to support the abutment?

Regrowing Bone

We used the example of foot binding earlier, but a better example is bowler’s thumb. Bowlers have big fat thumbs (or at least they used to). They tend to think that these are calluses, but if you remove the layer of calluses, you will still note that the thumb is significantly fatter than the other thumb. Why?

Essentially, the pressure caused by the thumb hole of the bowling ball on the bowler’s thumb causes a layer of bone to be pressured down. In response, the body regrows the bone twice as large thus causing the thumb bone itself to become larger.

In terms of dentistry, the opposite happens when you lose a tooth. The pressure caused by chewing results in the bone being pressured down and regrowing. But if the tooth is gone, the jaw bone actually recedes from where the tooth is missing because that pressure is absent. The body allocates energy only where needed.

In cases where there isn’t enough bone to hold a dental implant, we can stimulate the growth of the bone just like a bowler’s thumb.

Talk to a Cottonwood, AZ Dentist Today

For more information on how to handle a missing tooth, call the Cottonwood dentists at Peak Family Dental Care today, and we can begin discussing your options immediately.