Can Socket Preservation Save My Smile?
Remember how exciting it was to have a loose tooth as a child? The impending visit from the Tooth Fairy, showing off that new grin to your friends, watching as a new tooth grew! Adults? Not so much. The Tooth Fairy has a reputation for neglecting her older clients, our colleagues most certainly will not be impressed with a gap-toothed smile, and, to make matters worse, we now have a missing tooth and the risk of bone loss to contend with – oh, the joys of adulthood!
When a tooth is extracted, it leaves behind an empty socket in the strip of bone that surrounds the roots of teeth (i.e., the alveolar ridge bone). Since there is no longer a tooth to support, it’s not uncommon for the bone beneath the socket to begin to resorb and remodel once the tooth is removed. This process can be significant, with the average patient losing between 3 and 5 mm of alveolar bone within three months of tooth extraction.
Now, you may be wondering, “Do I really need to be concerned with bone loss if I don’t have a tooth there anyway?” In short, yes. Each tooth is securely attached to the jawbone with an intricate network of bone, nerves, soft tissue, and ligaments. When a tooth is extracted, a number of oral health issues can occur:
- Aesthetics: Without adequate support from bone structure and teeth, your smile starts to cave in in the area of extraction – much like a Halloween jack-o-lantern that was carved too early. Over time, your skin may begin to look shriveled and your smile will be unbalanced and unnatural.
- Alignment Issues: Your teeth are always moving, particularly into open spaces. As time passes, a hole on one side of your smile can lead to a severe shift of your teeth, affecting your smile and subsequently requiring orthodontic treatment.
- Implant Complications: If you plan on getting a dental implant to replace the extracted tooth in the future, a damaged and recessed bone greatly increases the likelihood of complications.
Fortunately, bone loss is no longer inevitable thanks to a technique known as socket preservation. Socket, or alveolar ridge, preservation involves placing a bone graft into the socket, where the tooth once was. This graft can be made of synthetic materials, bone from other animal sources or human bone. In addition, the use of Platelet Rich Fibrin (PRF), a natural product from your own blood may be added to the bone graft to enhance healing and bone formation. After putting the graft in the socket, the surgeon usually covers it up with a collagen membrane, then sutures the opening to keep it closed. The goal of socket preservation is to improve the appearance of the remaining teeth and gums and make the process of getting a dental implant in the future less complicated.
Though socket preservation was once deemed unnecessary, multiple studies have shown less bone resorption when socket preservation procedures were used, compared to cases where no graft material was placed in fresh alveolar sockets. And a recent retrospective review of the world’s published literature on socket grafting showed that human bone allograft and PRF produced the most predictable positive results. Due to how quickly bone resorption begins, socket preservation should be performed at the same time as the tooth extraction to ensure the best outcome possible.
With a combined 50+ years of experience, Drs. Stewart and Michael are well versed in socket preservation. If you’re interested in learning more about socket preservation procedures, please don’t hesitate to reach out to any of our four locations (Denton, Plano, Decatur, Gainesville). Our team would be happy to answer any questions you may have.
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