How is a Bone Graft Done for Dental Implants?

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If your dentist has recommended that you undergo a bone graft for future implants, you surely have a few questions and concerns.

The procedure can sound incredibly invasive and downright scary when you first hear about it but once you become more informed, your concerns will be replaced with confidence.

How is a bone graft done for dental implants? Read on to learn about the procedure, recovery time and any associated risks.

What is a Bone Graft?

A bone graft is a medical procedure in which additional bone is added to your jaw to create a secure and welcoming environment for dental implants. If there is not enough bone, an implant can be rejected by the body.

A bone graft may or may not be a necessary step for the placement of a dental implant, based on the following criteria.

  • Is the bone currently available thick enough for the implant?
  • Is the bone deep enough?
  • Is the bone wide enough?

If the available bone does not meet the requirements, a bone graft will help to increase the odds of a successful implant.

There are different degrees of bone grafts and the type that you receive depends on the current condition of your jaw bone.

If a damaged tooth is still present, demineralized and sterile human bone granules will be packed into the tooth socket after extraction. A few stitches are required but this is considered a low-risk and simple bone graft.

If you lost teeth years ago, there is most likely significant bone loss. A slightly more involved graft will be completed. A small incision will be made in the area of the missing teeth and bone graft granules are placed to build up the area. In this case, the surgeon may prefer to use some of your own bone. This will be taken from another part of your mouth, usually near a wisdom tooth.

If your teeth have been missing for a substantial number of years, advanced bone loss may be present. This is even more true for individuals who have worn dentures. In this more intense bone graft, human bone and the patient’s own bone are both required. A large piece of the patient’s bone is needed and will be taken from the jaw or hip in the form of a small block. It is then anchored in place in the jaw bone. Granules are also used to fill in and build up the area.

It can be difficult to picture this work being completed in your own mouth. Watch this video to give you a visual explanation of a bone graft.

How Does a Bone Graft Fit Into a Dental Implant Procedure?

There are quite a few steps involved in receiving a dental implant. Here is a brief breakdown, according to Dental Associates, that explains how a bone graft fits into the dental implant process and how long you can expect before your new smile is complete.

  • Dental Exam: You will need a complete dental exam before you and your dentist can make the final decision regarding your dental implant(s). At this time, your dentist will evaluate the area around the suggested implant area to determine if there is enough bone available to support the implants. The quality and density of the bone will also be measured. In most offices, a 3D CT scan might be used to create an individual treatment plan.
  • Prep Procedures: If there is still a damaged tooth in place of where the implant will go, it will be removed. Depending on the condition of the tooth, the bone graft is usually done at this same appointment. Your jawbone is allowed time to heal before the next step.
  • Dental Posts Are Placed: Once the bone is healed and you are cleared by your doctor, you will be ready for the posts to be placed. These metal posts are inserted into your bone and will eventually hold your new permanent teeth. Several months of healing are usually required after this stage.
  • Final Appointment: Once new bone and tissues have developed around the posts, you are ready to have your permanent teeth placed. While you were waiting for this appointment, your surgeon will have most likely placed temporary crowns or bridges on the implants. Your permanent teeth will be custom made so that the color, shape and size look as natural as possible.

The full process can take anywhere from three to nine months, according to the Mayo Clinic, and sometimes even longer. Most of the time is needed for healing and the development of new bone in your jaw.

Are There Any Risks?

Just like any medical procedure, there are certain risks involved with undergoing a bone graft procedure. Keep in mind that these are risks and not guaranteed side effects.

  • The gums in the bone graft area may recede over time.
  • Treated teeth may become more sensitive to cold or heat.
  • Treated teeth may be more susceptible to cavities, especially in the roots.
  • Immediately after surgery, bleeding and swelling can increase the risk of infection.

The American Dental Association mentions plenty of benefits from undergoing a bone graft for a dental implant. This process greatly increases the chances of a dental implant being successful, which is already fairly high thanks to the incredibly advancements in dental implant technology over the past few decades. A successful dental implant leads to higher confidence, better dental hygiene and can eliminate the need for embarrassing and uncomfortable dentures.

If you have considered dental implants or the process has been brought up to you by your dentist, the idea of undergoing a bone graft might be holding you back. But the information provided here should help you to feel more confident in your final decision.

Have you had an experience with bone grafts in the past? Let us know what you think about the procedure, along with its minor risks and great benefits.

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