Bone Grafts for Dental Implants
by Dr. Scott Bolding
Dental implants are one of the best options for replacing missing teeth. In fact, they are the only way to permanently get your smile back. Part of what makes dental implants so successful is that they are anchored in the jawbone. The jawbone fuses around the implant, securing it in place.
A secure implant requires a strong jawbone. If you don’t have a strong enough jawbone, you’ve probably heard your dentist suggest a bone graft. Bone grafting is a very common procedure that helps build up your jawbone in preparation for dental implants
What is a Bone Graft?
A bone graft is a procedure where bone material is taken from part of your body or an outside donor and inserted into your jawbone. The goal is to add volume and bone density to your jaw. Once the new bone is placed your body beings to build new bone around it.
Your oral surgeon will source the bone material from one of several places:
- Another part of your body, like your chin or hip
- Another person, usually a deceased donor
- An animal
- Or using synthetic materials
Who Needs It?
This procedure is most commonly used to prepare your jaw for a dental implant. After a tooth falls out or is extracted the surrounding bone begins to deteriorate. The longer you go without replacing your missing teeth, the weaker your jawbone becomes. So, when you finally are ready to move forward with dental implants your jawbone won’t be strong enough to hold them.
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A bone graft helps give your body something to build around so your jawbone can grow back to its full strength.
Other reasons include:
- Periodontal disease that has reached the jawbone
- Dental trauma
- If you have a fracture in your jawbone that may not heal
Bone Grafting Procedure
Bone grafting is a simple procedure performed by either a dentist or an oral surgeon. It’s usually done under local anesthesia, which means the area will be numbed before the procedure starts. You can, of course, ask to be sedated if you prefer.
After the area where the graft will be performed is numb, your oral surgeon will make an incision in your gums. Then, the grafting material is added to your jawbone. Your gum tissue is repositioned and the incision is stitched up.
Types of Bone Grafting Procedures
Ridge augmentation is performed after a tooth is extracted. During this procedure, the grafting material is placed in the tooth socket. This increases the width and volume of the jawbone, which in turn stabilizes the implant.
A sinus lift raises the sinuses up so that implants can be placed on your upper jaw. Your maxillary sinuses are located right behind your cheeks and on top of your upper teeth. Some of the roots of your upper teeth are rooted in these sinuses. If these teeth are removed or fall out the sinus can fall down into the space where the teeth used to be. During a sinus lift, the sinus is pushed up and grafting material is placed underneath.
What does recovery look like?
After your surgery, you will need a week to rest. You may experience some pain and swelling for a few days. You can take over-the-counter pain medication or your oral surgeon will prescribe you something if you need it.
It will be about 3-9 months for the bone to grow completely. Healing time will ultimately depend on a couple of factors including
- The type of graft you received
- Where the graft is placed
- How your body heals
Are Bone Grafts Safe?
Many patients want to know if they’re safe. And the answer is, yes. Bone grafts are a very safe procedure. Dentists and other doctors have been performing bone grafts for decades with no incidents of cross-contamination.
A bone graft from your own body or made out of synthetic materials are the best options, but getting the material from another body is safe as well. In fact, there are many precautions put in place to ensure safety. Getting a bone graft from another human or an animal is similar to getting a transplant for another part of your body like the heart or kidney.
Bone grafting is closely monitored by the American Association of Tissue Banks and the US Food and Drug Administration. Bone donors are screened for diseases like Hepatitis and HIV. Once the bone is removed, it’s tested and sterilized. According to the CDC, there has never been a case of disease transmission from a bone graft in decades.
Do Bone Grafts Fail?
Even though bone grafts are safe, they can still fail sometimes. Usually, this happens if some part of the graft is exposed or part of it is lost. Infections in your mouth can also cause problems for bone grafts. They rarely fail due to the body rejecting them.
When your bone graft fails you need to talk to your dentist as soon as possible. You’ll notice the failure when:
- The pain and swelling don’t go away
- You notice pus or drainage around the surgery site
- There is no improvement in your jawbone strength