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Ricardo Raschkovsky, DDS, MS

Is a Bone Graft Necessary Before Receiving Dental Implants?

Peanut butter and jelly, cookies and milk, chocolate and anything…some things just go together, and in the dental industry, bone grafting and dental implants commonly go hand-in-hand. If you’re a candidate for dental implants, hearing the term “bone graft” might cause some anxiety, but it’s actually a common procedure.

What is bone grafting?

Bone grafting is a surgical procedure that replaces missing bone with material from either a patient′s own body or a substitute. The human body is an incredible thing, and bone tissue can regenerate if it’s provided the space in which to grow. As natural bone grows, it generally replaces the graft material resulting in a fully integrated area of new bone.

When is bone grafting used?

If you have lost bone density, your jawbone may no longer be thick enough for an implant. In fact, anyone who has lost a tooth might need a bone graft before it’s possible to place a dental implant. Your body experiences bone loss every day a tooth is missing, which, over time, leads to disuse atrophy in the jawbone. Atrophy happens when the bone that is supposed to support teeth is reabsorbed, resulting in poor quality and/ or quantity of bone, making it difficult to place dental implants.

When replacing your teeth with dental implants, a dentist will be surgically placing a small titanium post under your gums and securing it to your jawbone. As such, your jawbone must be dense enough to support the post. A bone graft essentially thickens and widens the jawbone so that it can support dental implants properly. Remember, dental implants rely on osseointegration to work. This means that the implant has to bond with the bone to create a stable foundation for the crown. If there is no bone to work with, placing an implant becomes impossible.

Are there different kinds of bone graft?

Yes – there are several types of bone graft used. The type of bone graft selected depends on the extent of the damage you’re suffering from and the location of the lost tooth. It’s also important to note that the bone graft must completely heal before your implants are placed.

Socket Preservation – Just as the name implies, the primary purpose of socket preservation is to prevent atrophy or preserve the health of the alveolar bone (i.e., the socket that holds the tooth in place). This bone is often damaged by disease and/or infection, which necessitates a tooth extraction that can create a jaw deformity if preventative measures aren’t taken. Beyond cosmetic concerns, jaw defects also create major problems in performing restorative dentistry, which is why it’s important to speak with your dentist about socket preservation if they recommend tooth removal. It usually takes 3 to 6 months for the graft to heal.

Ridge Augmentation – Ridge augmentation helps recreate the natural contour of the gums and jaw, which may have changed due to bone loss from a tooth extraction or traumatic injury. Ridge augmentation is achieved by placing bone graft material in the tooth socket. Full recovery generally takes between 6 and 9 months. During this period, the new bone tissue will fuse with your alveolar ridge, becoming a permanent part of your anatomy.

Sinus Lift – This procedure is recommended when a patient needs an implant in the upper jaw but has a thin sinus wall unable to hold implants on its own. One of the most common bone grafting procedures for patients with bone loss in the upper jaw, a sinus lift grows bone in the floor of the maxillary sinus to enable the secure placement of dental implants. The healing process after a sinus lift graft typically takes 8-12 months.

Many but not all patients require a bone graft before receiving dental implants. To determine if you need a bone graft, give us a call today to schedule a consultation.

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