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An alveolar bone is a specialized type of bone which is designed to accommodate teeth. In humans, this type of bone is found in the mandible, or lower part of the jaw, along with the maxilla, the upper part of the jaw. Alveolar bone is especially thick and dense when compared to other types of bone so that it can provide adequate support for the teeth, along with attachment points for muscles involved in the jaw and for the gums which provide protection for teeth and bone.
This bone is also known as the “alveolar process.” It includes sockets which are designed to accommodate the roots and lower part of the teeth, with each socket separated from the next by an interdental septum. The gums attach to the alveolar process, and the bone has accommodations to allow blood vessels to enter for the purpose of supplying blood to the teeth. Damage to the alveolar bone can have serious consequences, including the risk of loss of teeth and septicemia if the damage is caused by an infection.
As people age, they often experience alveolar bone loss, which can be seen on dental x-rays. Sometimes the bone becomes thinner, and sometimes bone resorption occurs. In this case, part of the bone is reduced in volume. Resorption is often linked with damage to the jaw or the loss of teeth, which is one reason why extractions are avoided, if possible. Patients with severe damage may require alveolar bone grafting to replace missing bone or to promote bone growth to repair areas of damage.
People who are curious about the alveolar process can ask a dentist to show them this area of the jaw on an x-ray. The bone creates a ridge which surrounds the teeth, making it highly visible. A dentist can also point out any areas where bone loss is occurring, and posit possible causes in addition to recommending steps which can be taken to limit or address bone loss.
In addition to being subject to damage from trauma, alveolar bone is also vulnerable to damage from untreated infections and abscesses of the teeth, damage caused by gum disease which causes undermining of this bone, and damage which results from cancerous growths in the mouth and jaw. Dentists usually regularly assess the health of alveolar bone in their patients to check for signs of changes which may be a cause for concern.
@amysamp - My bone loss was going to be corrected with a dental bone graft and the only reason they were talking about correcting it was because I was thinking about getting a full dental implant versus just a crown.
The full dental implant needs a good amount of bone to attach to, hence the need for the bone graft if you have bone loss where they need to attach the dental implant.
I couldn't believe how expensive even the crown was (although worth it - no more tooth pain)!
I experienced some teeth bone loss thanks to a raging infection because of a filling that I had in my teeth. The filling had become loose and therefore germs and other goodies could enter in my tooth and get below the tooth (this is where I learned fillings don't last forever)!
They treated the infection with a root canal and then put a crown on my tooth. Much prettier than the filling that was there! It was during that process that they saw my bone loss. Not sure what I'm going to do about the bone loss yet... any suggestions?
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