The bone that holds your teeth in place (alveolar bone) requires the stimulation it receives as your teeth press into it as you chew to prevent it from shrinking. If you have been wearing dentures for a few years, the bone will have shrunk. Your cosmetic dentist may tell you that getting implants to replace your dentures is not a good idea because you do not have enough bone left to adequately hold the implants. While this is true, there are a few procedures you can have done that increases the mass or strength of the alveolar bone so implants are a possibility.

Ridge Augmentation

Using bone harvested from your own hip or knee, or from a cow or human cadaver, the dentist will graft it to your alveolar bone. This makes your jawbone thicker and stronger so it will hold an implant securely.

Ridge Expansion

In a ridge expansion, your jawbone is split lengthwise and pulled apart, making the ridge wider. The dentist may then fill the area with some form of bone grafting material (the same that would be used in a bone augmentation).

Sinus Grafting

When you are missing your back, upper molars, the sinus cavity that is above that area of the jaw can extend into the alveolar bone, making it too thin for an implant. Bone grafting material can be placed under the sinus lining that will keep the implant from protruding into the cavity. This not only makes for a more stable implant, but keeps you from suffering with sinus problems, such as headaches and infections.

Sinus Lift

Sometimes, the problem is not that the bone has deteriorated, but that the sinus cavity has fallen, pushing the bone down with it. While there may be enough bone for the implant, the tooth will be down lower than the rest of your teeth, making it difficult to close your mouth and to chew. In this case, the dentist will insert a piece of metal that will force the sinus back up into place.

Having dental implants instead of dentures helps to keep the alveolar bone strong and healthy. Just because you have worn dentures for years, and your jawbone has deteriorated does not make getting implants impossible. Talk with your dentist about the different cosmetic dentistry procedure options available for improving your bone. You may be able to have the procedure done at the same appointment when having the posts for the implants inserted. This will reduce the time it takes for everything to heal enough to have the crowns put on so you can be eating normally again.