What is Bone Grafting? Why is it Necessary for an Implant?

Tooth loss has a far reaching effect on your appearance, dental and overall health. Over a period of time, the jawbone associated with missing teeth atrophies or is reabsorbed.  This often leaves a condition in which there is poor quality and quantity of bone suitable for placement of dental implants.  In these situations, most patients are not candidates for placement of dental implants because dental implants need bone to hold them in place!

Today, we have the ability to grown bone where needed.  This not only gives us the opportunity to place implants of proper length and width, it also gives us a chance to restore functionality and esthetic appearance. 

Bone grafting is used to restore the lost bone dimension when the jaw ridge gets too thin to place implants. It can be done at the same time as a tooth extraction (which we call site preservation for a future implant), or if the tooth has been gone for awhile it can sometimes be done to build back the ridge where bone has been lost (called ridge augmentation). Once the bone graft material is placed under the gum, it heals much like an arm or leg in a cast.    With proper care, in 4-6 months, the bone becomes strong enough to place dental implants, and you can get new teeth. To minimize your discomfort, we often use sterilized or synthetic bone which stimulates your own bone to grow into the repair site.  It is effective, very safe and avoids a second surgical site.  In addition, special membranes may be utilized that dissolve under the gum and protect the bone graft. 

Sometimes when you're getting an implant in the upper jaw, you will need a procedure called a sinus augmentation, or sinus lift.  A sinus lift is needed when your sinus sits low and there is not much bone between where the implant needs to be placed and where your sinus is. In order to get the room for the implant, bone grafting is used to "lift" the sinus up higher and create more height in the bone for the implant to be placed without harming the sinus.

With either bone grafting for site preservation, for ridge augmentation, or for sinus lifts, your post operative instructions are the same and are critical for the success of the grafting and for a positive experience! After discharge, rest is recommended for one day and limited physical activity for one week to allow the gum to heal and minimize bleeding. And as always, no smoking!  You may feel slightly sore in the area the graft is placed for a few days, though pain is not usually reported by our patients everyone does heal differently.  Then, within a few months, you'll be ready for your implants!

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