When you lose a tooth, a dental implant is often a safe and appropriate fix to the problem. Dental implants are common and long-term solutions to a lost tooth. If your dentist suggests a dental implant to replace a tooth or fill a gap, you may hear them mention a bone graft. In order to get a dental implant, you must first get a bone graft. Inserting a dental implant is a surgical procedure that is often done in stages. Here’s how it works:
Dental Implant Surgery
Before preparing for a dental implant surgery, your dentist will first remove the troubled tooth. If the tooth has already fallen out, they will inspect the gums around the area for any tooth fragments and remove them as well. Next, they will prepare your jaw bone for the implant surgery. This is the part where bone grafting usually comes in.
After your teeth begin to fall out, the bone beneath the tooth can decay or chip. Bone grafting is the act of replacing the jaw bone underneath the missing tooth, correcting the shape or size so that the implant will fit properly into the jaw bone. Without a bone graft, the dental implant will not have enough support from the jaw bone and may not stay aligned or it could even fall out.
After the bone grafting process is completed, your dentist will insert the anchor, which is basically a screw post, into the gums and newly grafter jaw bone. The implant then screws into place and is secured for long-term wear.
The procedure is often spaced out into three to five different appointments, and can sometimes be more or less. During and after the procedure periods, you will probably be restricted to only soft foods or liquids in order to allow the mouth to heal. Your dentist may require you to take antibiotics or give you a prescription for pain medication to help you manage the pain after the procedures.
Bone Grafting Breakdown
After teeth fall out or are removed, the pressure placed on your bare gum during chewing can easily result in deterioration of the jaw bone underneath. If your jaw bone is too weak or too soft, you may need a bone graft in order to provide a solid foundation for the implant.
Bone grafting is the process of removing a piece of bone from another part of your body, such as your hip, and then grafting it into your jaw bone. The healing process before you can get your implant will likely take several months. This is to allow time for the jaw bone to grow into the grafted bone material, which allows it to gather enough strength to withstand the implant procedure and hold the implant in place for years to come.
You can expect some pain and discomfort after your bone grafting procedure. Your dentist may prescribe pain medication.
Types of Dental Bone Grafts
There are three types of dental bone grafting procedures. The type of procedure that will work best for you is dependent upon the severity of bone loss under the tooth and the placement of the new implants. Here are the three main types of bone grafts:
- Ridge Augmentation: This is used when the amount of bone deterioration in the jaw is severe. The dentist will use an allograft to fill the crevice or empty space to reshape the bone to its normal size.
- Sinus Lift Procedure: If you are planning to get implants in the upper jaw, this is the usual type of bone graft needed. This procedure requires a small incision near the maxillary sinus. The sinus is displaced upwards and the small pocket that is created is then filled with bone to provide a good base for the implant.
- Socket Grafting: If the tooth fell out due to some type of infection or accident, there is likely a cavity in the gums underneath that burrows into the jaw bone as well. In this case, this hole is filled with bone graft material and the jaw bone is given time to grow a new layer of bone cells over the grafted area, creating a strong base for a dental implant.
Risks Associated With Bone Grafting
Like all surgical procedures, there are some risks and side effects associated with the bone grafting procedure. Some of these risks include:
- Negative reaction to anesthetics used during surgery
- Nerve damage to the surrounding area
- Excessive bleeding
- Pain when talking, eating, or drinking
- Swelling around the implant site
- Rejection of the bone graft
- Reabsorption of the bone graft
Are You a Candidate for Bone Grafting?
You may be a good candidate for a dental bone graft if you:
- Need dental implants to replace missing teeth or fill gaps
- Are missing more than one tooth
- Have a jaw bone with a good density surrounding the affected area. This will help the bone grow into the grafted bone material.
- Have a jawbone that is fully grown and mature
What to Expect After Bone Graft Surgery
After you receive a bone graft, your dentist will likely give you a few lifestyle restrictions during the healing process. This can include things like:
- Not smoking for two weeks prior to the procedure. Cigarette smoke can increase the risk of infection and dry socket and slow the healing process dramatically.
- Avoid too much physical activity after the procedure.
- Stick to soft foods or liquids during the healing process. Chewing hard or dense foods can be difficult and painful and may cause damage to the bone graft.
- Placing an ice pack on the jaw or gums to reduce swelling and help manage pain.
- Taking a daily antibiotic to prevent infection at the grafting site.
- Taking pain medication to reduce pain.
The healing period for a bone grafting procedure can last anywhere from two weeks to a year, depending on the severity of the surgery. After the healing process, you will be able to talk to your dentist about the next steps, which usually involves placing your new implants. Bone grafts are not for everyone, but they are a wonderful intervention that makes it possible for people to fix gaps and holes and receive dental implants, whether for functionality or cosmetic purposes, that would not be otherwise possible.