If you are an older individual who wants a dental implant, then you may think that osteoporosis stands in the way of you receiving an implanted tooth. For some people, this may be true because the jaw will not have enough strength to hold the implant root in place. However, there are a few things that you and your dentist can do before ruling out the artificial tooth entirely.
Complete A Tomography
Your bones go through a natural process called remodeling where old bone cells are removed and absorbed by the body. This is called resorption. Minerals are then used to form new bone cells, during a process called ossification. Remodeling usually occurs so that the same number of cells that are lost are quickly replaced. However, as you age, resorption occurs more rapidly than ossification. This leads to bones that are more porous than they should be, and the condition is called osteoporosis.
When you have osteoporosis, the rate of resorption varies depending on the location of the bones in the body. This means that your hip or leg bones may lose more bone cells than the ones that make up your jaw. The bone cells across the jaw are typically stimulated by the teeth, so the bone may be more dense. To see if this is the case, your dentist can complete a tomography or CT scan of the jaw. This will provide the professional with a cross-sectional view of the bone so porosity and density can be evaluated.
If your dentist feels that the bones need some added strength before you go through the dental implant process, then you may be asked to change your diet a bit. An increase in calcium and vitamin D will be suggested. If you smoke, then you will likely need to quit. Smoking causes widespread cell damage, and this includes damage to the bones. Drinking causes similar damage, so your dentist may suggest that you limit alcohol to one or two drinks a day. Once you make lifestyle changes, your dentist will order another CT scan. You may need to wait several months in between scans, because it takes some time for the bones to build strength and density.
Change Osteoporosis Medication
Many people with osteoporosis take bisphosphonates. Bisphosphonates are medications that are stored in the bones and stop the bones from releasing old bone cells. This allows the ossification process to balance out with the increased resorption that occurs as you get older. Unfortunately, bisphosphonates are linked to an increased risk of dental implant failure. The jaw bone must heal around the dental implant root and connect to the titanium part. This keeps the implant root stuck in the jaw so it does not shift out of place. Healing requires full remodeling to occur, and this means that normal rates of resorption and ossification need to happen. Since bisphosphonates reduce resorption, this can lead to an implant that does not secure properly. In rare cases, the bone around the implant can die. This is called osteonecrosis.
You can reduce failure concerns by switching to an osteoporosis medication that helps the bone absorb more minerals. These medications are called anabolics and they are injectable medicines. The anabolics are synthetic thyroid hormones that rapidly increases ossification so the bones are able to thicken and become dense. Anabolics are generally used short term to treat osteoporosis, so ask your physician about switching to the medicine during the implant process and then switching back to your regular bisphosphonate medicine once the dental implant root has fully healed.
Dental implants can sometimes be placed in the mouth if you have osteoporosis. Make sure to work closely with your dentist or oral surgeon, someone like Joe Rosenberg, DDS, to see if this can still be an option for you.