What is severe maxillary atrophy and how is it treated today?

Definition and Impact

In certain situations, the bone of the mouth can shrink and become significantly smaller to the point that sometimes it can disappear. This phenomenon is also called bone loss or clinically as “maxillary atrophy”. The consequence of this is that the bone separating the sinus area from the mouth is very thin, only a few millimeters thick. Colloquially, the term “jawbone loss” defines the same phenomenon. Maxillary atrophy may originate from systemic disorders too. Only a thorough diagnostic by a trained team of experts can identify the causes of bone loss. Additionally, implant failure or infection can lead to bone loss. As a result, the little bone left prevents the placement of dental implants.

Maxillary atrophy has significant consequences on the quality of life, not only dental. Using a removable denture is complicated, time-intensive, and usually does not reach the function and aesthetics expected. Biting an apple, eating a sandwich, or smiling become arduous if not impossible with a removable denture. Furthermore, the prolonged use of removable dentures further aggravates the loss of bone in the mouth. The lack of mechanical stimulation of the jaw bone leads to a loss of bone.

Solutions

In this situation, not enough bone material is available to place dental implants. A few years ago, the most successful solution was the use of bone grafts, with a success rate of 80%. Today, however, the zygomatic implants’ success rate is superior to 92%. The treatment involves using the cheekbone, or zygomatic bone, to anchor implants and place fixed teeth within 24 hours. Zygomatic implants are the safest option in this case. The surgical treatment terminates with a fixed denture anchored onto implants. Patients can bite apples, can eat a sandwich, and smile with confidence. The patient receives fixed teeth in a day, in opposition to bone grafting, where a few months are necessary.

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