It’s fairly common for a patient to learn at their dental implant consultation that they may require a bone graft in order for the implant to be successful. Bone loss can occur for a number of reasons. Luckily, today bone grafting is a routine procedure.
Why is bone grafting necessary?
There are a number of reasons why patients may experience bone insufficiency, including:
- Periodontal disease
- Defects in tooth development
- Long-term use of dentures or partial dental bridges
- Oral or facial trauma
- Missing teeth that have not been replaced with an implant or dental bridge
- Dental procedures that were performed without any effort to restore natural bone.
In most cases, bone grafting is minimally invasive and can be performed right in our office.
What type of bone is used in bone grafting?
Today, it isn’t necessary for us to harvest large quantities of a patient’s own bone in order to perform a bone graft. Today, xenografts allow us to use sterilized animal bone. This is a tried and true practice that has been used successfully for decades. Most commonly, the bone used is bovine (cow) bone. Immediately following placement, the bone acts to prevent the surrounding tissues from collapsing. After that, the human body believes that the bone is natural and will reabsorb the material and replace it with your own bone cells.
The types of bone grafts
In general, there are three common bone grafting procedures, which are discussed in greater detail below. In most cases, our dentist will discuss one or combination of these procedures with you while creating your customized treatment plan.
The Alveolar Ridge Preservation Graft (Socket Graft)
When a tooth is lost or extracted, it leaves behind a hole that is surrounded by a small amount of alveolar bone. This bone exists to support a tooth, and when the tooth is lost the body begins to reabsorb the bone. An alveolar ridge preservation graft is used to prevent this from happening in cases where a dental implant cannot be placed shortly after the tooth is extracted or lost. The socket graft will fill the space for three to six months until an implant can be placed.
The Autogenous Ramus/Chin Graft (Block Bone Graft)
In some cases, a xenograft cannot adequately replace the amount of bone that is missing after a tooth has been lost. In these cases, a patient’s own bone will need to be harvested in order to help build up or replace what is missing. In these cases, an autogenous graft will be taken and placed in block form. This block of bone is usually taken from the lower jaw where the wisdom teeth once resided, known as the mandibular ramus. In other cases, it may also be taken from the chin. You may hear this type of graft being referred to as a “chin graft” or “ramus graft.” The bone will then be transferred to the area of bone deficiency and secured with a tiny screw that has been overlaid with a collagen membrane and bovine bone. The site will then be closed and allowed to heal for a period of about four months.
The Subantral Graft (Sinus Lift)
Because the upper jaw is connected to the maxillary sinus when a tooth is lost it may result in very little bone remaining. This makes placing a dental implant in this area more challenging than in other areas of the mouth. The sinus lift procedure is used to ensure that an implant can be put in to replace maxillary molars.
When performing this type of graft, the dentist will first make a small window in the sinus above the upper teeth. The membrane that lines the sinus will then be gently lifted upward to form a small balloon of space. This will then be filled with a xenograft of bovine bone. In some cases, a dental implant may be placed immediately. However, if there is less than five millimeters of natural bone present, it will be necessary to allow the graft to heal for six to nine months before a dental implant can be placed.
If you would like more information on bone grafting procedures, or if you would like to find out if you are a candidate for bone grafting, contact our office right away for a consultation. We look forward to helping you achieve a full and healthy smile once more.