The single most important factor in determining if dental implants are a viable option, and if they will last, is that of the amount and health of bone in the area. A sufficient, healthy foundation is a must. Any assessment for the treatment will involve X-rays or other scans to determine if there is enough bone present. But what if it is thin or too shallow in the area where you need one or more implants?
All is not lost, but you will need an extra procedure… a bone graft for dental implant work. Many patients will in fact require some sort of grafting procedure before implants are placed. Let’s take a quick look at this.
What is a bone graft for dental implants?
Here’s a great video to explain grafting:
This procedure involves the dentist adding extra bone into the area that is to hold an implant. It is needed when the residual jawbone is too thin or narrow, and is a common technique. Grafting is commonly needed, as once a tooth is extracted or lost, the bone that used to hold it in place resorbs away. The level of resorption varies, but often it is enough to warrant a graft.
If the tissue loss is in the upper jaw then the dentist may need to perform a sinus lift or ‘augmentation’. This is where the tissue height is increased below the sinus, where the bone is naturally often very shallow.
Another term is onlay grafting, a grafting technique where a bony piece is taken from somewhere else on your body. This small piece is then placed over the thin area, where it will bed into place over time. This results in a thicker foundation for the implant to be placed. But where is this piece taken from? The best place to get this graft is from some other area of your own body. For example, your hip, leg, back of the lower jaw or chin. A small piece can be taken and your body will repair the area over time. Using your own tissue means less chance of rejection and faster healing. Artificial bone substances can also be used, alone or in conjunction with a natural graft.