female dentist treating caries using microscope at the dentist office

Dental Implants for Severe Bone Loss: Is it Possible?

Dental implants have revolutionised the field of restorative dentistry, providing a reliable and long-lasting solution for replacing missing teeth. However, for those who suffer from severe bone loss in the jaw, the viability of dental implants can be a subject of concern.

In this blog, we will explore the challenges associated with dental implant placement in cases of significant bone loss, discussing the factors that contribute to this condition, as well as the advanced techniques and solutions that have emerged to help overcome these obstacles. By delving into the latest research and clinical advancements, we aim to provide an insightful and comprehensive guide to understanding the possibilities and limitations of dental implants for individuals with severe bone loss.

Summary of the Article

  • Dental implants can be placed even with severe bone loss but may require additional procedures like bone grafting.

  • There are potential risks associated with dental implants for severe bone loss patients, including implant failure, infection, nerve damage, sinus complications, bone graft failure, and implant rejection.

  • Techniques to address severe bone loss for dental implant placement include socket preservation, bone grafting, ridge expansion, and sinus lifts.

  • Recovery time after bone grafting and sinus lift can vary, with initial healing taking 1-2 weeks but full integration with surrounding bone taking 3-6 months or longer.

  • Additional procedures like a sinus lift and ridge augmentation may cost between $3000 and $5500 per tooth, but the final price will vary depending on the number of lost teeth and location.

  • Potential risks of not having bone grafting or sinus lift include dental implant failure, weakened jawbone, gum recession, bite problems, and limited treatment options.

  • Alternative solutions for missing teeth besides dental implants include dental bridges, dentures, partial dentures, complete dentures, and resin-bonded bridges.

Can Dental Implants Be Placed if I Have Severe Bone Loss?

Dental implants can be placed even if you have experienced severe bone loss, but it may require additional procedures and considerations to ensure a successful outcome. Dental implants are artificial tooth roots made of titanium that are anchored into the jawbone to support prosthetic teeth.

In cases of significant bone loss, bone grafting may be necessary to rebuild and improve the bone structure before placing dental implants. This procedure involves taking bone from another part of the body or using a bone substitute and grafting it onto the jawbone, providing a stable foundation for the implants.

Other advanced techniques, such as sinus lifts or ridge expansion, may also be employed to create sufficient bone volume for successful implant placement. The choice of technique depends on factors such as the extent of bone loss, the location of the missing teeth, and the patient’s overall health.

Are There Any Potential Risks Associated With Dental Implants for Severe Bone Loss Patients?

Dental implants have been proven to be a reliable long-term option for replacing missing teeth. However, even though dental implants can improve patients’ ability to eat and speak again, there are potential risks associated with the procedure, especially for those with severe bone loss. Some of these risks include:

  • Implant failure:
    Severe bone loss patients may have a higher risk of implant failure due to insufficient bone support. Implant failure can occur if the implant does not integrate with the bone.

  • Infection:
    Bacteria can enter the surgical site, resulting in an infection that requires additional care. Proper oral hygiene, following post-operative care instructions, and regular dental checkups can help minimise this risk.

  • Nerve damage:
    A numbing or tingling sensation in the lip, chin, or tongue may result if the implant is placed too close to the nerves in the jaw.

  • Sinus complications:
    For patients who undergo a sinus lift procedure, there is a risk of sinus membrane perforation, infection, or sinusitis.

  • Bone graft failure:
    The bone graft may not integrate well with the existing bone, leading to graft failure. This can result in the need for additional bone grafting procedures or alternative treatment options.

  • Implant rejection:
    Although rare, the body may reject the dental implant, causing it to fail. This can be a result of an allergic reaction to the implant material, poor bone quality, or inadequate implant integration with the bone.

What Techniques Can Address Severe Bone Loss for Dental Implant Placement?

Severe bone loss in the jaw can present challenges for dental implant placement. However, various techniques can be employed to address this issue and improve the chances of successful implantation. Some of the common techniques include:

Socket Preservation

  • Also known as alveolar ridge preservation, this technique is used to preserve the bone after tooth extraction. A bone graft material is placed in the tooth socket, and a membrane may be used to cover the site. This helps maintain the shape and volume of the alveolar ridge, preventing bone loss and creating a more favourable environment for future dental implant placement.

Bone grafting

  • This procedure involves taking bone from another part of the patient’s body or using a bone substitute material to rebuild the lost bone. The graft provides a scaffold for new bone growth and can help create a stable foundation for dental implants.

Ridge expansion

  • This technique is used when the jawbone is not wide enough to support dental implants. The ridge bone is split, and a bone graft material is inserted between the two sections, which encourages new bone growth and widens the ridge for implant placement.

Sinus lifts

  • Also known as sinus augmentation, this technique is used when there is insufficient bone in the upper jaw, particularly in the area of the molars and premolars. A sinus lift involves raising the sinus membrane and placing bone graft material in the space created, which encourages bone growth and provides support for dental implants.
confident keeping hands on hips.

How Does Bone Grafting Work for Jaw Reconstruction?

Bone grafting is a surgical procedure aimed at restoring areas of bone loss. It is crucial for jaw reconstruction, particularly in dental implant placement. It is also a good option for patients who have suffered severe jaw bone loss from periodontal disease.

Bone graft treatment involves evaluation and planning, during which the dentist will assess the patient’s jaw and creates a treatment plan using dental X-rays, CT scans, or 3D imaging. After administering anesthesia, the dentist will prepare the recipient site, removing any damaged or infected bone tissue. The bone grafting material is then placed in the area of severe bone loss, acting as a scaffold for new bone growth. The graft is secured with screws, plates, or membranes to keep it in place during healing, and membranes may be used to promote bone regeneration.

The surgical site is sutured closed, and the patient will receive post-operative care instructions, including pain management, oral hygiene, and dietary restrictions. The healing process usually takes several months, after which dental implant placement may be performed.

What Is a Sinus Lift? How Does It Benefit the Dental Implant?

A sinus lift, also known as sinus augmentation, is a surgical procedure that aims to increase the bone height in the upper jaw, particularly in the area of the molars and premolars. It is often performed when there is insufficient bone density for dental implant placement due to bone loss or the natural anatomy of the sinus.

The procedure involves the following steps:

  1. An incision is made in the gum tissue to expose the underlying alveolar bone.
  2. A small window is created in the bone to access the sinus membrane.
  3. The sinus membrane is gently lifted away from the jawbone, creating a space.
  4. The bone graft material is placed in the newly created space to encourage bone growth.
  5. The gum tissue is sutured closed, and the healing process begins.

Even though everyone heals at their own pace, most people report needing anywhere from 3-6 months to recover. Time must be allowed for the bone graft to integrate with the surrounding bone before the new implant can be placed.

Where Will the Bone Graft Used in Bone Grafting and Sinus Lift Come From?

Bone grafting and sinus lifts are used to reconstruct jawbones that have been severely compromised by the loss of teeth or severe gum disease. The bone graft material used in these treatments may come from different sources. Here are the four types of bone grafts classified based on their sources:

  1. Autograft:
    Also called autogenous bone graft, autograft uses bone harvested from the patient’s own body. Common donor sites include the jawbone or hip bone. Autografts are considered the gold standard for bone grafting because they have the highest success rate and compatibility, as there is no risk of rejection or disease transmission.

  2. Allograft:
    An allograft uses bone sourced from a human donor, typically processed and sterilised cadaver bone. It has the advantage of not requiring a separate surgical site for bone harvesting, which can reduce patient discomfort and surgery time.

  3. Xenograft:
    A xenograft uses bone derived from a non-human species, usually bovine (cow) or porcine (pig) bone. The bone is processed to remove any organic material, leaving behind a mineral scaffold that promotes the patient’s own bone growth.

  4. Alloplastic graft:
    Alloplastic grafts are synthetic materials, such as hydroxyapatite or bioactive glass, designed to stimulate bone growth. These materials can provide consistent quality and supply, and they also eliminate the risk of disease transmission.

How Fast Is the Recovery After Bone Grafting and Sinus Lift?

The recovery time after bone grafting and sinus lift can vary depending on several factors, such as the type and amount of bone graft used, the patient’s overall health, and the extent of the procedure.

The initial healing period typically takes 1-2 weeks, during which time the soft tissue will start to heal and mature. After this, patients may be able to resume normal activities. However, it can take 3-6 months or longer for the bone graft to fully integrate with the surrounding bone and for the area to heal completely. During this time, patients will need to follow specific post-operative care instructions, which may include avoiding certain foods or activities, taking medication as prescribed, and attending follow-up appointments with their dentist or oral surgeon to monitor the healing process.

How Much Do These Additional Procedures Cost?

When there has been a significant lack of bone density, a sinus lift and ridge augmentation may be necessary to ensure the success of dental implants. These procedures may cost between $3000 and $5500 per tooth.

However, the final price will vary depending on your case, the number of lost teeth and your location. It’s not uncommon for dental implant procedures to run several thousand dollars.

You may also inquire with your health fund provider if these additional procedures are part of their coverage.

What Are the Potential Risks if you Opted Not to Have These Procedures?

If you opt not to have bone grafting or sinus lift when it is recommended by your dentist or oral surgeon, there are several potential risks and consequences that you should be aware of. These include:

  1. Dental implant failure:
    If there is not enough bone in the jaw to support a dental implant, the implant may fail to integrate properly or may even become loose, leading to a failed implant.

  2. Weakened jawbone:
    When a tooth is lost, the bone in the jaw that supports the tooth can begin to weaken and shrink over time, leading to a condition called jawbone resorption. This can result in a weaker jawbone that is more susceptible to fractures or other injuries.

  3. Gum recession:
    Without proper bone support, the gum tissue around teeth or implants can start to recede, which can lead to aesthetic and functional problems such as tooth sensitivity or difficulty chewing.

  4. Bite problems:
    Without enough bone support, the teeth or implants may shift or become misaligned, leading to bite problems and possible jaw pain.

  5. Limited treatment options:
    If there is not enough bone in the jaw, it may limit the treatment options available to restore missing teeth or other dental problems.

Are There Alternative Solutions for Missing Teeth Besides Dental Implants?

There are alternative solutions for missing teeth besides dental implants. Some of the alternatives include:

  • Dental Bridges:
    Dental bridges are fixed prosthetic devices that are anchored to adjacent teeth and used to replace one or more missing teeth. They can be made of different materials, such as porcelain or ceramic, and can be customised to match the colour and shape of your existing teeth.

  • Dentures:
    Dentures are removable prosthetic devices that replace missing teeth and surrounding tissues.

    • Partial dentures:
      If you’re missing several teeth in your upper or lower jaw, a partial denture may suit you.
    • Complete Dentures:
      When all of a patient’s natural teeth have been lost, a full denture is the treatment of choice.

  • Resin-Bonded Bridge:
    Resin-bonded bridges are fixed dental prostheses anchored to the adjacent teeth. However, unlike dental bridges that require trimming of adjacent teeth, resin-bonded are more conservative. The bridge is bonded to the adjacent teeth using composite resin, so trimming is not needed. 

Final Thoughts

Dental implants are an excellent method of dental reconstruction that offer stability, durability, and a natural appearance. By replacing missing teeth with implants, patients can restore their ability to eat and speak normally, improving their quality of life.

What makes dental implants particularly beneficial is their ability to address even severe cases of bone loss. In such cases, additional procedures like bone grafting may be required to provide the necessary support for the implant. This makes dental implants a viable option for people experiencing dental problems due to bone loss.

If you’ve experienced significant bone loss, West Perth Dental can help by providing bone grafting services and dental implant treatment. Our dentists will examine your mouth and advise you on the most suitable course for restoring your teeth using a combination of dental treatments. Call West Perth Dental today, and let us help you get a better smile right away.

Dr. Michael Wu


Dr. Michael Wu

Dr. Michael Wu holds a Doctor of Dental Medicine degree from the University of Western Australia. He never stops learning and regularly attends post-graduate education seminars, courses, and conferences to ensure he is providing his patients with excellent dental care.

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