Every year in the United States, dentists insert about 2.5 million dental implants to replace their patients’ missing teeth. Dental implants are the most natural-looking, feeling, and functioning type of tooth replacement available. Improvements in implant technology — such as customized tooth shapes and antibacterial coatings — keep implants in their #1 position.
However, even if you’re ready for an implant and it’s your first choice for tooth replacement, you may not be eligible. Due to poor oral hygiene, trauma, or aging, you may not have a sufficient amount or strong enough jawbone to support an implant.
Sometimes, the lack of strong and sufficient bone is enough to disqualify you from implants altogether. More often, you may be a candidate for a bone grafting procedure that reconstructs your jaw so it can fuse to dental implants. Bone grafting precedes about half of all implants.
At Miracle Smile Dental in Aubrey, Texas, our dentist, Nisha Modi, DMD, is an expert in replacing missing teeth with the latest dental implants. She also performs bone grafts when necessary so your implants stay stable for decades.
What happens during a bone grafting procedure? Following are some things you can expect.
Once you’ve undergone your initial consultation, cleaning, and examination, the next step is to discuss what kind of bone graft is best for you. You and Dr. Modi discuss your options, such as:
These bone grafts come from your own body, such as bone from your chin, hip, or shin. An autograft requires an additional procedure to remove the bone.
Allografts are donated, sterilized bones that come from cadavers.
Xenografts use the inorganic portions of animal bones, such as cow bones.
An alloplast is a synthetic graft created from hydroxyapatite, a mineral that occurs naturally in bones and teeth.
Ceramic grafts consist of ceramics only or combined with calcium, bioactive glass, or other materials.
The exact steps of your graft vary slightly depending on what kind of grafts you use. In general, you can expect:
Your dentist uses local anesthetics to numb the area where the graft gets placed. If you’re donating an autograft, Dr. Modi also administers an intravenous (IV) sedative to keep you calm, relaxed, and pain-free.
For an autograft, Dr. Modi removes a small bit of bone from your chosen location. If your dental implant is to replace a broken or decayed tooth, we extract the damaged tooth. Placing an autograft shortly after extraction helps the bone heal faster.
Dr. Modi now thoroughly cleanses and disinfects each area where the graft or grafts get placed. She makes an incision in the gums to expose the bone, then applies the graft to the exposed bone.
Once a graft is in place, Dr. Modi stitches your gum closed to hold the graft while it fuses with your jawbone. If you need multiple grafts, she moves to the next site and repeats the process.
After your procedure, you’re sore and groggy from the anesthetics and sedatives. We make sure you’re OK before sending you home with a friend or family member who can drive you. We also give you aftercare instructions.
Your gums may feel sore and tender for a few days. You eat a liquid diet and swish your mouth with water rather than brushing your teeth. You return for a follow-up appointment so that we know you’re healing well.
You can expect a healing and fusing period of about 4-6 months. During this time, the graft integrates with your natural jawbone. Once the jawbone has fused with the graft, it’s time for your implants.