Bone Grafts For Dental Implants
As soon as you lose one or more teeth, the alveolar ridge bone in which those teeth were once embedded begins to be re-absorbed into your body. Within 12 months of tooth loss, on average, some 25% of the underlying bone will have disappeared. This means that the longer you wait to install dental implants, the more likely the bone will have shrunk too much to support those implants.
However, this sort of "catch 22" need not prevent your getting an implant in most cases. If the bone is too thin, too short, or too soft to support an implant, bone grafting can prepare the way.
To build up lost bone mass, your periodontist will ideally use bone sourced from your own body, typically the back lower jaw, chin, hip, or shin. But, in some cases, "processed" bone graft material from cadavers, cows, or synthetic (though natural) sources will be used. Your periodontist will take a CT scan of the regions where the bone grafts will be placed. They will then place you under sedation and administer a local anesthetic. A block of bone will be positioned, anchored with miniature titanium screws, and then surrounded by loose bone graft materials. The bone will fuse and grow together, and non-bone cells will turn into bone cells in the weeks ahead.
Other Types of Dental Bone Grafts
What we described above was the typical bone graft surgery for a dental implant. But there are other types of bone grafts that are done in specific situations. These include:
- Sinus lifts: When not enough bone exists in the back upper jaw for implants, bone may need to be grafted on to increase its height. In the process, the maxillary sinus will be raised slightly to make room for the extra bone being added.
- Ridge expansion: If your jawbone's alveolar ridge is too thin, a ridge expansion can widen it. A specialized dental saw cuts along the top of the alveolar ridge, and then the "canal" is filled in with bone grafting material. The implants are sometimes placed immediately, but some periodontists prefer to wait several months while your jawbone heals.
- Bone augmentation: In some cases, where bone is too short, it will be gradually grown (in any direction) rather than simply using full-fledged bone grafts. A piece of bone will be secured to the bone that needs to be extended , widened or made taller.