Bone Grafts & Dental Implants
If you are healthy in general and lose a tooth to periodontal disease, trauma or infection, your dentist may recommend a dental implant to replace the missing tooth.
This artificial tooth will be surgically implanted in your jawbone so a tooth replacement such as a crown or bridge can be placed. Once the dentist has completed the procedure, your implant will look and feel similar to your natural teeth.
However, sometimes patients have a jawbone that is too soft or thin to support a dental implant. If this is the case for you, you may need a bone grafting procedure to help strengthen your jawbone and preserve your oral health. A bone graft might also be required to regenerate bone loss due to severe gum disease to prevent teeth from loosening or falling out.
The Dental Implant Procedure
The dental implant procedure is typically performed in stages, the first of which is extracting the damaged tooth before preparing the jawbone for surgery. If a bone graft is needed, the dentist will add tissue to your jawbone to strengthen it and restore areas where the bone has deteriorated. A bone graft can also restore proper contour in the face.
The titanium rod for the dental implant is placed beneath the gum tissue into the jawbone before the gum tissue is stitched back into place. The implant will then start to bond to the bone through a process called osseointegration. As the area heals, the implant attaches to the gum tissue.
During another appointment, the abutment will be attached to the rod before the dentist uses a tooth replacement to cap the abutment. You'll then have a functional, natural-looking tooth.
Bone graft material can be taken from your own body (autogenous), purchased from a human tissue bank (allograft) or an animal tissue bank (xenograft). In some cases, synthetic material is used (alloplast). The material is then transplanted to the jawbone.
It may take several months after a bone grafting procedure for the transplanted bone to generate enough new bone to support the placement of a dental implant.
Once the jawbone has healed, your dentist can surgically place the implant into the jawbone. This stage may also take up to several months to heal.
The next step is to place the abutment (an extension of the implant's metal post) into the jaw. After another period to allow the soft tissue to heal, the dentist will take molds or impressions of the teeth and jawbone before inserting the tooth replacement.
A Healthier Smile
While bone grafting and dental implant procedures can take some time, the process can leave you with healthier teeth and help protect your oral and overall health from the consequences of bone deterioration and missing teeth.