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While dental implants are a strong, natural-looking, permanent solution for replacing missing teeth, the procedure requires sufficient jawbone density to be successful. Fortunately, patients with weak or missing bone material have the option of a bone grafting procedure prior to the implant surgery, which adds volume and density to support the implant.
Teeth are held in place by the jawbone, but the support goes both ways—when you lose a tooth, the bone that used to support the root will begin to disintegrate away, or “resorb” into the body. That’s why dentures that replace an entire arch of missing teeth have to be replaced and readjusted so often—the bone continues to shrink and change the size of the mouth, impacting the fit of the dentures.
Missing teeth aren’t the only trigger for jawbone loss. Advanced periodontal disease (gum disease) can also result in resorbed bone material. Decayed teeth that make it painful to eat can also lead to bone loss because the jawbone is built up and strengthened every time you use it to chew.
Dental implants work through a process called osseointegration, which is when the jawbone fuses to the titanium screw that serves as the anchor to the dental implant. The most common type of implant failure happens when the screw doesn’t successfully fuse with the bone, but the bone grafting procedure helps ensure there is sufficient bone density to support the implant.
However, bone grafting procedures are not exclusively used in conjunction with dental implant procedures. When patients need an adult tooth extracted due to injury or disease, dentists will often deposit bone grafting material into the empty socket to keep the bone strong and ready for an implant later on, if they ever choose that option. Additionally, when periodontal disease causes teeth to loosen, regenerating the bone around the teeth through bone grafting will increase bone support and help keep the affected teeth in place.
If your dentist has determined you’re a good candidate for a bone grafting procedure, the first step will be conducting a high-tech imaging exam to assess the quality and quantity of your existing bone tissue and to decide where the graft will be needed.
The bone grafting material will often come from your own body, such as another area of the jawbone, or from an animal or human donor that has been treated by a lab to ensure it’s sterile and safe.
Grafting material can also be synthetic, in the form of a powder, putty or gel injected through a syringe. If the material comes from your own body, it will be harvested prior to the procedure.
During the bone grafting procedure, which typically requires local anesthesia instead of full sedation, the dentist will make an incision in the gums and carefully place the grafting material before covering it with a collagen membrane for optimum bone repair. The incision site will be closed with sutures, and you will be sent home to recover.
During the bone grafting recovery process, you will be given antibiotics to prevent infection and in some cases prescription pain medication. However, most patients only need over-the-counter pain relievers, if anything. The healing process takes approximately three months, although it could take longer depending on the patient. Once the bone tissue is fully healed, you’ll be able to schedule your dental implant surgery.
If you’re considering dental implants to replace one or more missing teeth but you have insufficient bone material, you might be a good candidate for bone grafting. The experts at Smile Designers can answer all your questions and help you understand all your options for restoring your beautiful, full smile. Give us a call at (619) 222-6000 to schedule a consultation today.