Chances are pretty good that you have heard the phrase dental implants tossed around a few times, even if you don’t know much about what they are. Bone grafting, on the other hand, is a much less commonly known phrase. This is a touch on the ironic side because bone grafting and dental implants go hand in hand in the dental industry.
Bone Grafting is Normal
If you are a dental patient who might be getting dental implants, it is important to keep in mind that it is fairly normal to be told during a consultation that bone grafting for dental implants surgery might be necessary. It is also normal for you to be scared. After all, bone grafting just sounds scary.
Fortunately, this is not a procedure you need to be afraid of. It is a regular dental routine that is both painless and predictable.
When is Bone Grafting Necessary?
Bone grafting is a technique that is required when a patient does not have a sufficient amount of healthy natural bones in his or her mouth that are capable of supporting the dental implants. This deficiency of natural bones can be caused by:
- Development Defects
- Gum Disease
- Face Injury or Trauma
- Empty Space After Teeth Were Removed
What Exactly Is Bone Grafting?
A bone graft is a surgical procedure to repair, or rebuild, bones through the transplantation of bone tissue. By transplanting healthy bone tissue we can recreate bone and supporting tissues that are missing.
Who Needs Bone Grafts?
Anyone who has lost a tooth might need a bone graft before it is possible to place a dental implant. This is true even if you come in to ask for a dental implant the day after you lose the tooth. The socket could be infected, or the lost tooth could be the wrong size to support an immediate replacement.
Of course, most people don’t come in for an implant the same day they lose the tooth. Sometimes the reason is financial. Sometimes it’s logistical. Either way, bone loss occurs every day the tooth is missing.
Why Does Tooth Loss Cause Bone Loss?
The type of bone that typically gets into trouble is called the alveolar bone. Alveolar bone has one job: supporting and holding your teeth. If there’s no tooth, then alveolar bone starts to atrophy for lack of work.
In addition, the jawbone is built up and strengthened every time you chew. Alveolar bone loss can thus quickly lead to jawbone loss as well.
Remember, dental implants rely on osseointegration in order to work—that is, 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.
How Do Bone Grafts Work?
There are several types of bone graft, and the type we use depends on the extent of the damage you’re suffering from as well as the location of the lost tooth.
The most common type of bone graft is called a socket graft. A socket graft’s primary purpose is to prevent the atrophy of the alveolar bone before it can occur. We usually place bone from a human donor right into the socket. This also prevents the collapse of the socket. After a socket graft, you’ll typically be ready for your implant in 4-6 months. As a bonus, having one of these grafts will minimize post-operative pain from the implant surgery.
The next type of bone graft is called a lateral ridge preservation graft. These grafts are used to increase the width of the jawbone in order to accommodate a dental implant. Again, we typically use human donor bones for this.
The block bone graft is another type of graft that we use. The block bone graft is necessary when there are large defects in the jawbone. To perform the block bone graft, we harvest a small block of bone from the back of the jaw. We place the block into the defect, then hold it in place with small titanium screws.
Both the lateral ridge preservation graft and the block bone procedure typically take 4 to 6 months to heal.
Finally, we have the sinus lift procedure. We generally use equine bone for these so that we may expand the graft. The equine bone may be added to a human donor’s bone. This procedure is necessary when the patient needs an implant in the upper jaw, which is not typically stable enough to hold the implants on their own.
So, why equine bone? Because equine bone actually provides us with two unique advantages. It doesn’t dissolve as quickly as human bone does and microscopically is more similar to human bone. This equine bone creates a kind of “scaffold” that supports the additional growth of bone in the sinus.
Due to the anatomy of the sinus cavity healing typically takes 8-12 months.
Are Bone Grafts Painful?
Not at all! We do them in our office every day. They are an outpatient procedure, and patients are typically sedated throughout the entire process. You shouldn’t feel any pain as the graft heals, and, of course, when the graft is done you’ll be ready for your dental implants. A bone graft is simply the first step most people will have to take before they’re ready to enjoy their beautiful new replacement tooth.
What Happens After the Bone Grafting Procedure?
After the procedure has been completed, you’ll be given antibiotics to prevent infection. In some cases, pain medication is given as well. Most patients who receive bone grafts are completely pain free and do just fine as long as they take the antibiotics.
Your dentist also has to wait for the bone graft to fuse with the natural bones that are already in your mouth. Unfortunately, your mouth is different from everyone else’s and there is no exact time frame for how quickly this happens.
It is not uncommon for it to take anywhere from 3 months to an entire year for the bone graft to fuse with the natural bones inside of your mouth. You will come in for regular checkups until your dentist decides you are ready for the implants.
Does Everyone Need a Bone Graft Before Getting Dental Implants?
No! Of course the only way to know if you’ll need a bone graft is to schedule a consultation with Dr. Templeton. During the consultation you’ll find out if you need one and if you do, what type of bone graft is needed. Schedule your consultation today!