Bone Grafts & Dental Implants
If you are generally healthy and lose a tooth to trauma, infection, periodontal disease or something else, your dentist may suggest getting a dental implant to replace the lost tooth.
Dental implants are artificial tooth roots that can be surgically placed in your jawbone so that a tooth replacement such as a crown or bridge can be attached. Once the procedure is complete, your implant will look and feel much like your natural teeth.
That said, if your jawbone is too soft or thin to support a dental implant, you may need a bone grafting procedure to help strengthen your jawbone before the implant can be placed. A bone graft might also be needed to regenerate bone loss due to severe gum disease to prevent teeth from becoming loose and 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, the 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), and purchased from a human tissue bank (allograft) or an animal tissue bank (xenograft). In some cases, synthetic material is used (alloplastic). The material is then transplanted to the jawbone.
Patience will be required. 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.
Once the jawbone has healed after the bone grafting procedure, your dentist can surgically place the implant into the jawbone. This stage may also take up to several months to heal properly.
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 moulds or impressions of the teeth and jawbone before inserting the tooth replacement.
A Healthier Smile
While bone grafting and dental implant procedures can take a significant amount of time, the process can help to provide you with a natural-looking smile and protect your oral and overall health from the consequences of bone deterioration and missing teeth.