Dental implants can be a godsend for people who have lost their permanent teeth. To benefit, however, patients must have enough bone to secure the implants. For people who do not, bone augmentation is a critical step for preparing the jaw for implantation. Here’s what you should know about this important procedure.
Why Does Someone Need Bone Augmentation?
To ensure that dental implants successfully take hold, the jaw must be able to provide support. When patients experience gum disease or facial trauma, however, their jaw bones may not be healthy enough to keep implants in place. Missing teeth and dentures can also negatively affect the jaw’s ability to support implants.
What Is Bone Augmentation?
When someone doesn’t have enough healthy bone to support implantation, a dentist may perform a bone graft. Generally painless and minimally invasive, modern bone grafting works in the following way:
- A local anesthetic is used to numb the area.
- The surgeon then exposes bone by making an incision in the gum tissue.
- The surgeon affixes bone graft material to the existing bone inside the mouth.
Packed with proteins and collagen, the graft material encourages bone growth. As the new bone grows, it will replace the graft material. It can take between one and nine months for the bone to heal well enough to hold a dental implant, depending on the condition of the existing bone and the extent of the graft.
Where Does the Graft Material Come from?
To get material for a dental bone graft, a surgeon may choose to obtain bone from somewhere else on your body, such as your shin, hip or chin. In some instances, surgeons can also obtain graft material from cadavers or animals. There is also a synthetic option called alloplast, which is developed in a laboratory.
Other Types of Bone Augmentation
In addition to traditional grafts, surgeons can build bone using a few other procedures, including:
- Sinus lift: This involves adding bone below the sinus to increase the height of the upper jaw.
- Ridge expansion: This surgery is used to widen the upper jaw, so it can support dental implants.
- Distraction osteogenesis: This procedure is used to make shorter bone longer.
- Alveolar ridge preservation: This surgical procedure is used to prevent or reduce bone resorption after tooth extraction.
What to Expect
After bone augmentation, you will have to wait several months for bone to grow. During this period, you may need to wear a denture or eat certain foods. Your dentist will also provide specific instructions you should follow to prevent infections or injury. He or she may also prescribe pain medications, along with antibiotics to reduce the risk of infection.
If you are interested in getting dental implants, contact a local dentist for an evaluation. Even if you thought a prior dental issue might prevent you from getting implants, modern bone augmentation can make it possible.