About ten years ago, I had a tooth extracted. Recently, I went in because I wanted to see about replacing that tooth with a dental implant instead of the removable partial denture I’ve been using. My dentist told me there has been significant bone loss and I will need to have some bone grafting done in order to get the dental implant. Since then, I have learned that there was a procedure he could have done in order to preserve that bone, but he never did it or even offered it to me. Is it reasonable to ask him to cover the cost of the bone grafting?
I am glad you wrote. The procedure you read about is called an alveolar ridge preservation. Sometimes, it is referred to as a socket preservation. It is a form of bone grafting itself. Ten years ago, when you had your tooth extracted it was a new, emerging procedure. The materials were expensive and there was little research on its efficacy. I am not surprised your dentist did not offer it. Even today, not all dentists do the procedure.
Bone loss is common with tooth extractions. In fact, it is one of the worst side effects of having complete dentures. After ten years or so, patients with full dentures will have lost so much jawbone that they will not even be able to keep their dentures in their mouths, essentially making them a dental cripple. This is known in dental circles as facial collapse.
The only way to prevent this type of bone loss is by placing dental implants. These prosthetic tooth roots signal to your body that you still have teeth and, as a result, it would leave your bone intact. Once that bone is gone, it’s gone. However, in order to have a successful dental implant procedure, you will need bone for the implant to integrate with so it can remain securely retained.
I wouldn’t ask your dentist to cover the cost of your bone grafting, especially given that it was a brand new, unproven procedure at the time.
This blog is brought to you by West Seneca Dentist Dr. Carl Embury.