Dean C. Younce, D.M.D., P.A.
Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery
The word 'dentoalveolar' refers to the ridge of bone in the mouth that contains tooth sockets and bears teeth. Therefore, dentoalveolar surgery refers to the management of the teeth and their supporting hard (bone) and soft (skin and muscle) tissues. Dental extractions and implants are just a few of the procedures that fit into this category.
A dental extraction is simply the removal of a tooth, commonly the third molars, better known as wisdom teeth. These molars are extra and unnecessary teeth that tend to emerge from the gums when a person is in his or her late teens or early twenties. Wisdom teeth are troublesome and are recommended to be extracted because often they are impacted, meaning they do not fully emerge or break through the gum tisue. Impaction can occur because there is not enough room in the mouth for the teeth to erupt.
Although it may not seem like a big issue, impacted wisdom teeth can cause many problems in the mouth, especially since the area in which they grow is difficult to clean effectively while brushing. Impacted teeth can become infected or cause adjacent teeth to decay. In addition, a tumor or cyst could form as a result when the teeth do not emerge correctly from the gums. Wisdom teeth are advised to be removed as a precautionary measure for a healthy mouth and smile.
Opposite from a dental extraction is a dental implant. Dental implants allow for a natural looking resolution to issues such as lost, missing, damaged, or extracted teeth. An advantage of a dental implant is that it can be the perfect solution for one problem tooth without negatively affecting surrounding teeth. When a tooth is absent from the mouth due to trauma, extraction, or other reasons, the process to resolving the gap begins with a dental implant, a post that functionally replaces the missing tooth's root.
The post is placed in the bone of the jaw to serve as an anchor for the replacement tooth. After the procedure to place the post, four to six months are required for the gums to heal. Following this time period, an abutment, or temporary tooth, is connected to the post. Then, the patient will return to their general dentist who will use the abutment as an anchor for the crown, or replacement tooth which will completely cover the abutment and restore the patient's smile. Dental implants can also be used as anchors for dentures in addition to crowns.
In the case that there is an insufficient amount of bone to hold an implant, more bone is added to the jaw during a bone graft. If more bone must be added to an area of the upper jaw due to the sinus cavity, the bone graft is called a sinus lift.
Mouth in need of an implant (above)
Mouth after the procedure (above)
Dental implants in preparation for dentures.
Mouth before dental implants (left). After (right).
Impacted wisdom tooth on lower jaw that has caused a cyst, the dark image directly left of the 3rd molar.