Bone Grafting for Implants

What is Bone Grafting?

Over a period of time, the jawbone associated with missing teeth slowly disappears or atrophies. This often leaves inadequate bone for the placement of dental implants or the proper fitting of a denture. To help correct or prevent this situation from occurring, a bone graft can be placed. Bone grafting is a surgical procedure that replaces missing bone with a variety of different materials, depending on each patient’s situation. This material not only replaces missing bone but helps your body re-grow lost bone. This new bone growth strengthens the grafted area by forming a bridge between your existing bone and the graft. Over time the newly formed bone will replace much of the grafted material. When necessary, a membrane may be placed over the bone graft site. This membrane further encourages new bone to grow and also prevents scar tissue around the site. Generally, after three to four months, the bone graft is completely healed and a new denture can be made or dental implants can be placed.

Why is a Bone Graft Needed?

Bone grafts are needed when a part of your body is missing bone. The missing portion of bone is called a “bony defect”. Bone grafts are used to correct bony defects in the mouth such as: defects which occur following tooth extraction; a generalized decrease in quantity of jaw bone from trauma or long-term tooth loss; defects surrounding dental implants; defects in the wall of bone separating the sinus cavity and the mouth. When a maxillary sinus defect is corrected this procedure is called a sinus lift.

Having the ability to rebuild bone allows the opportunity to place dental implants that are the proper length and width and/or the proper fitting of dentures and bridges. Bone grafting can also restore functionality and aesthetic appearance.

An example of a jaw with inadequate front bone structure to support an implant
1. Inadequate Bone
A depiction of the placed bone grafting material to increase the bone structure
2. Graft Material Placed
A representation of dental implants placed after bone grafting
3. Implants Placed

There may be inadequate bone for implant placement if your tooth was removed many years ago and your bony ridge is extremely thin. In this case, a bone graft can be placed next to the thin bone and allowed to heal for up to six months. After the graft has fused to your pre-existing bone, the ridge will be re-entered and the implant placed. Bone grafting is usually a relatively comfortable office procedure. Many different bone-grafting materials are available, including your own bone.

A jaw lacking enough bone in the back of the mouth for a dental implant
1. Inadequate Bone
An example of a dental implant after adding jaw structure with bone grafting
2. Graft Material and Implant Placed

You may also need bone grafting if the sinus cavities in your upper jaw are very large, or very low, and extend into the tooth-bearing areas. This often occurs when teeth in the back of a person’s upper jaw have been removed many years before, and the amount of bone available for implant placement is limited. A “sinus grafting procedure” is then required. Most often, it is performed in the office with local anesthesia and perhaps sedation. During this procedure, the membrane that lines the sinus will be located and elevated. Bone will then be added to restore the bone height and ensure that dental implants of an adequate length can be placed. This procedure often can be performed at the time of implant placement.