If you’ve lost one or more teeth and want to improve the appearance of your smile, dental implants may seem like an ideal solution.
Implants involve inserting a metal post into the jaw, which binds to the bone through a process called osseointegration.
Once the connection is steady, an abutment and replacement tooth are attached on top. The implant looks natural while helping to restore bite strength, stimulate bone growth and mitigate future bone loss.
However, some patients might have a degree of bone loss. For these individuals, bone grafting is a necessary first step before the metal post can be inserted.
What is Bone Grafting?
Bone grafting assists with the regeneration of lost or declining bone structure. For patients who have experienced a change in facial features due to bone loss, grafting also helps restore the face’s natural shape and contours.
Grafting creates a more reliable foundation to support dental implants and helps to better distribute pressure from chewing. Without sufficient jawbone, the chances of implant failure significantly increase.
Although grafting helps improve jawbone strength, the primary target is the alveolar bone, which is key for holding onto and supporting a patient’s teeth. However, if teeth fall out, decay or are extracted but never replaced, the alveolar bone begins to atrophy. With time, this pattern spreads to the jawbone.
Periodontitis may be one factor accelerating this process. Initially, the bacteria produced by plaque infects the gums. As the condition travels below the gumline, it goes after the tissue underneath the teeth, then to the alveolar bone. At this stage, a patient’s teeth may begin to fall out while bone loss continues.
Who Might Need Bone Grafting?
Although declining jawbone tissue is the primary qualifier, you may also be a candidate for bone grafting if:
- You have lost teeth due to trauma or injury
- You have lost teeth due to rot, decay or gum disease
- Your jawbone is too soft or too thin
- You have developmental defects leading to bone loss
- You had teeth removed, leaving empty spaces that were never filled in
How Does It Work?
The process of inserting implants and crafting the replacement teeth already takes months; bone grafting significantly lengthens the procedure.
To stimulate bone growth, grafting may involve a natural material or synthetic bone substitute. For natural grafting, bone from another location in your body will be extracted and transplanted into your jawbone.
A synthetic or alternative bone source may be transplanted from a cadaver or animal. This approach avoids multiple surgical sites on the body.
In most cases, re-growing and replacing the missing bone can take months. Once the jawbone has regenerated and is stable, your dentist may then insert the implants. For patients missing only a small portion of their jawbone, the graft and titanium posts may be added together.
Following all procedures, patients may experience minor gum swelling, bruising or bleeding, although these symptoms dissipate as the mouth begins to heal. Your dentist will also provide dietary instructions: For instance, soft foods are recommended for the graft and implants to fully heal.
Are you a candidate for dental implants? To find out if bone grafting may be needed, schedule an appointment today.