Most dental implant procedures are simple and straightforward, but in some cases, complications require grafting.
Dental implants use small screws or cylinders that act as roots for replacement teeth or to anchor a bridge. To support these restorations properly, the implants require an adequate base of bone tissue in the jaw. In cases where the amount of bone is insufficient, an oral surgeon performs a graft, essentially a transplant of bone tissue, to strengthen the jaw and create a solid foundation for the implants.
When Bone Grafts Are the Only Option
Gum disease, also known as periodontitis, can cause the bone surrounding the teeth to wear down or decay. Bone loss also occurs as a result of aging, and it can be made worse by accidents, injuries or wearing dentures.
If bone loss becomes advanced, the jaw starts to shrink and may become too soft to support dental restorations. X-rays will show the amount of decay, and if the jaw bone is determined to be too thin, a graft will be required before dental implants can be placed. The jaw must be able to support the implants, or the pressure of chewing can cause the restorations to fail.
Types of Bone Grafts
With many implants, autogenous grafts (also known as autografts) are used. This type of graft is performed by harvesting bone from another part of the body, such as the hip or shin. Many oral surgeons prefer autografts, because these transplants are not typically rejected by the body.
Unfortunately, harvesting may not be practical or recommended for some patients, but other types of grafts can be just as successful. An allograft, which is natural human bone that comes from a tissue bank, is appropriate for many patients.
Other graft options for dental implants include xenografts, which use harvested cow bone, and alloplastic grafts, which are created from synthetic materials.
Process for Dental Implants Requiring Grafts
When a graft is required for implant placement, the process involves several procedures and may take three or more months from start to finish. First, the oral surgeon will assess the surrounding tooth and jaw area and treat any tooth decay or gum disease that may be present. Damaged teeth will also be removed at this stage.
Next, the jawbone is prepared for the implants by grafting or transplanting new bone. The jaw is then given time to heal so that the grafted bone can fuse to the existing bone, to create a solid foundation for the restorations.
Once the jaw has adequately healed, the surgeon will insert the metal posts for the implants. After another healing period, abutments, or extensions of the implant, are screwed down into the posts, followed by the new replacement teeth.
Although it sounds complex, the bone graft process is actually fairly simple. The professional surgeons at Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery of Utah are experienced in all the latest dental techniques to restore missing teeth. Call us to schedule your dental implant consultation today.