What is Socket Preservation?
Did you know the jawbone immediately begins reshaping and re-contouring the minute a tooth is extracted – or pulled? The body is a very efficient machine, and it doesn’t like to waste resources. Because of this we like to use a technique called socket preservation to counteract this natural occurrence.
When we extract a tooth from the jaw, the alveolar ridge – the strip of bone that surrounds the roots of teeth – begins to dissolve away and disappear. The body recognizes the tooth is gone, so it goes to work demolishing unnecessary tissues to conserve energy, materials and blood supply. Unfortunately, the alveolar ridge can’t be replaced without surgical intervention. So, oral surgeons use socket preservation – a form of bone grafting – to protect and preserve this essential ridge and the surrounding bone tissue until dental implants are inserted and established into the jawbone matrix.
What Happens During Socket Preservation?
Socket preservation is a type of bone grafting procedure designed to protect the alveolar ridge and empty tooth socket from decaying – simultaneously creating a stronger support system for the dental implant that will be put into place as scheduled. In addition to protecting the tooth socket from inevitable bone erosion, socket preservation can also correct or amend any deformity that may exist in the alveolar ridge or socket.
Once the socket preservation procedure is complete, the patient’s existing teeth – as well as the bone gaps between the teeth – remain firmly in place and are less susceptible to bone loss. While socket preservation can be done using synthetic materials, we prefer to use the patient’s own bone (or matching donor bone from a tissue bank) for the procedure. If we use your own bone material, we’ll harvest it from elsewhere in the jaw, from the hip or from the tibia (the bone blow the knee).
After we’ve placed the bone graft into the socket, we cover it with a special collagen membrane. In addition to protecting the socket and the newly placed graft, this special membrane dissolves and “nourishes” the bone graft, encouraging it to regenerate more quickly and solidly.
Emerging Evidence Shows There is Great Value in Socket Preservation
While bone grafting isn’t a new surgical procedure, socket protection is. For many years, mainstream dentists and oral surgeons felt it was an unnecessary procedure. Now that we have years of evidence and data behind us, the current industry consensus, “[supports] ridge preservation techniques as a whole. Multiple studies demonstrated less ridge resorption occurring when alveolar ridge preservation procedures were used versus the placement of no graft material in fresh alveolar sockets.”
If you are scheduled for a tooth extraction and your dentist does not consider socket preservation as a routine part of the procedure, we highly suggest you work with a dentist or oral surgeon who does. Failure to set the bone graft in place immediately or soon after an extraction can result in bone and soft tissue shrinkage that seriously compromises the functionality and aesthetics of dental implants.
Even those planning to get a bridge and/or dentures to replace their extracted teeth – rather than implants – benefit from socket preservation because it improves jaw health and structure as a whole – regardless of future implants or topical solutions. Either way, this specialized type of bone graft supports the integrity of your jaw and existing teeth as a whole.
What can happen if my dentist doesn’t use socket preservation?
If you skip this step, and don’t have a dental implant put in place immediately, your teeth can and will move in unpredictable ways. Once the jawbone begins to deteriorate, the surrounding mouth tissues are affected. This can cause teeth to shift and move in any direction. You can wind up with small gaps that become large ones, or go from having no gaps in your teeth to having visible gaps.
While the shape of your mouth and your smile are certainly important, this deterioration of jawbone and the movement of teeth in the jaw and gums can cause longstanding health issues. These result in your inability to bite and chew food properly, not to mention the higher risk of cavities and/or gingivitis since gaps between teeth or crooked teeth make it easier for bacteria to settle in.
Does dental insurance cover the cost of bone grafting for socket preservation?
All dental plans are different. Most insurance companies are beginning to partially or fully cover the costs of socket preservation as a result of the emerging evidence. That being said, not all dental plans are considered equal. The office staff at your dental or oral surgery office is happy to contact your insurance company to find out what is and isn’t covered so you can plan your procedure(s) accordingly.
The average cost of a socket preservation runs between $475 and $550 per extraction/socket. It’s true that this out-of-pocket expense may seem high for some. However, we’d encourage all patients undergoing a tooth extraction to discuss financing options with their dentist. While $500 might seem like a large first-time cost, it is very reasonable when broken up over a year or more of financing. Also, when you consider that jawbone decay and ensuing tooth loss and/or bite difficulties compromise nutrition and overall health and well being, the minimal lifetime cost of the procedure makes it well worth the investment.
Most major dental and oral surgery offices accept Care Credit. This vetted lender offers a range of credit options – including 0% financing options for those with a decent credit history.
Are you interested in learning more about the socket preservation procedures? Contact us here at Los Gatos Oral and Facial Surgery. While we always advocate for the services that lead to the healthiest overall results, we never encourage patients to participate in and/or pay for any procedure unless we feel it’s absolutely necessary.
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