Bone leveling is a procedure called “alveoloplasty.” Bone leveling is extremely beneficial in cases where a bone graft can be avoided altogether. Especially in the lower jaw when the bone atrophies, (melts away) what’s left of the bone is just a skinny spine knife edge type of ridge where the teeth used to be. That skinny knife edge ridge will not allow a normal size implant to fit inside of it.
What’s interesting about our jawbone especially in the lower jaw and even in the upper jaw is it is shaped like a triangle if you look at it in cross section. The top of the bone is the apex of the triangle which is skinniest and the bottom of the bone is the base of the triangle which is the widest. So if your bone is really skinny at the tip and is wider at the base, a bone leveling alveoloplasty reduction procedure can take top of the triangle off leaving a wide base of bone to place the implants. The procedure has minimal risks.
I do this very commonly when replacing implants in the lower jaw when all teeth are missing. This serves many purposes. One purpose for leveling bone is to avoid bone grafting. A second purpose would be to provide bone around the entire head platform of the implant. Finally, bone leveling for dental implants reduces cost to the patient and decreases the time until you get your final teeth… A win-win situation!
Why don’t we just do this for all implants?
Why is this only limited to full arch replacement such as a Prettau dental implant bridge or when replacing large segments of teeth?
The reason is that it makes the teeth longer from the gum line to the top of the tooth. If you are missing all of your teeth bone leveling (as opposed to bone grafting ) can be extremely beneficial because it provides thickness to the overdenture or fixed dental implant bridge such as the Prettau.
Having significant thickness of your bridge will prevent problems that you may not think about such as breaking your bridge or breaking your implant overdenture. This happens so commonly when the depth of the implant is too shallow and a full arch zirconia, hybrid all on 4 bridge or overdenture case is made and the material was so thin that it just breaks in half or the teeth chip or fracture off.
Bone leveling reduction alveoloplasty can be very important for replacing all upper teeth also especially if you are missing gum tissue. Sometimes we have to use pink tissue ceramic colored porcelain to mimic lost gums. You never want this transition between the prosthetic pink gum and your natural gum to show when you smile. Although the pink gum tissue looks very natural, it does not look natural if you see the line between the two in full smile. So sometimes a bone leveling reduction alveoloplasty is done in order to hide the transition. I have been doing this procedure for at least 15 years as of 2015.
Another other benefit is the bone shavings can be used to graft another area of the mouth that may need bone! This can be combined with L PRF/PRP (made from your own blood) and other bone grafting materials to as your own bone and make a composite bone graft that is extremely successful.
Bone leveling is also important to make sure that the heads of all the implants are all relatively on the same plane. It is extremely common for the lower jaw to be missing more bone in the back and the bone to be sticking up in the front. This bone that is sticking up in the front is usually reduced for thickness purposes and to make sure the implants are at a good level with the rest of the bone and the other implants. Typically I do this procedure when I am placing anywhere between 3-10 implants in the jaw. It also allows for the gum to be closed very well and stitch in such a way that the gums almost always touch each other. This is called primary closure and leads to fast healing from surgery.
What is the disadvantage of this procedure?
If bone leveling reduction alveoloplasty is used in the wrong location, such as a single missing tooth, you will end up with a huge, open black triangles between your teeth. It is not meant to be used in cosmetic areas of the mouth such as upper front teeth. These areas are better served with bone grafting than bone reduction leveling. It is meant to treat long span missing teeth or when you are missing all teeth. Bone reduction alveoloplasty needs to be carefully planned from a full set of photographs and a 3-D scan. The point is to take away just enough bone but not too much.
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• Diplomate of the American Board of Oral Implantology / Implant Dentistry
• Fellow-American Academy of Implant Dentistry