Bone Grafts & Dental Implants
Typically if a patient is healthy and has lost a tooth as the result of an infection, trauma, periodontal disease, or for another reason, your dentist might suggest getting a dental implant to replace the missing tooth.
This artificial tooth root will be surgically placed in your jawbone so a tooth replacement such as a crown or bridge can be attached. After the procedure has been completed, your dental implant should feel and look very much like your natural teeth.
However, if your jawbone is too thin or soft to support a dental implant, you might need to have a bone graft procedure to help strengthen your jawbone and preserve your oral health. A bone graft may also be required to regenerate bone loss as a result of severe gum disease to prevent tooth loss or to keep your teeth from falling out.
The Dental Implant Procedure
Dentists typically perform the dental implant procedure in stages, the first of which is extracting the damaged tooth before preparing the jawbone for surgery. If you require a bone graft, a 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 to the facial area.
For the dental implant, a titanium rod is placed underneath gum tissue into the jawbone, before the gum tissue is stitched back into place. The implant will then begin 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 dentist will attach the abutment to the rod, before using a tooth replacement to cap the abutment, leaving you with 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.
After your jawbone heals your dentist will be able to surgically place the implant into the jawbone. This stage might also require 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
Even though the dental implant and bone grafting procedures could take a while, the process could provide you with healthier teeth and help protect your oral and overall health from the consequences of bone deterioration and missing teeth.