If your dentist has recently suggested dental implants, then you are sure to have plenty of questions. Fortunately, the implant process is relatively straightforward. In layman’s terms, your oral surgeon is going to replace the root of your tooth with a medical-grade metal post. This metal post will be drilled into your jawbone for stability. Over a few months, your bone will integrate with the post. Then your surgeon will be able to place an abutment and crown, giving the appearance of a completely natural tooth. Some patients might first need a bone graft though.
The result is a natural-looking tooth that can last a lifetime as long as you follow a recommended dental hygiene routine. However, in some cases, the procedure can be slightly more complicated. Whether you have been missing the tooth in question for an extended period or are suffering from a medical condition that results in bone loss, your surgeon may notice that your jawbone may not be strong enough to support an implant on its own. If this is the case, your surgeon may suggest a bone graft.
What is a Bone Graft?
A bone graft is a small slice of bone or synthetic material with very similar properties attached to existing bone to promote growth. If your dental surgeon looks at your x-rays and worries that the bone could be too soft or too thin, they are likely to suggest the procedure to give the implant the best possible chance of success.
Although it may sound scary, a bone graft is actually a pretty simple procedure. Your dentist will only need to put you under general anesthesia if they are taking a small piece of bone from elsewhere in your body. If they are using a synthetic material, then local anesthesia will usually suffice. During the procedure, your dental surgeon will cut down into the gum, giving them access to the jawbone. The graft is then placed over the weakened portion(s) of the bone, and the gum is closed.
It will take several months for the graft to fully integrate into your existing bone, but it will provide a more solid foundation for your implant post. By adding stability, your dentist can ensure that your implant will function just like a regular tooth.
Who Is More Likely to Need a Bone Graft?
The patients who are most likely to need a bone graft are those who have been missing a tooth for an extended period or are missing several teeth in a row. The integrity of your jawbone is preserved by the pressure exerted while you chew. Therefore, the bone slowly degrades once you lose a tooth. The degradation is more widespread when you have lost more than one tooth in the region. Fortunately, the bone graft and the post will actually help to reverse bone loss and strengthen the jaw by allowing you to chew normally again.
Is It Necessary?
Your dentist will carefully examine your jaw during your initial consultation and review your most recent x-rays. Based on the available data, they will make an expert recommendation regarding the necessity of a bone graft. Even if it isn’t the answer you want to hear, your dentist is invested in making the right decision for your long-term health. You can always ask your dentist to explain the reasoning behind their recommendation, but you will have to trust their expertise if you want your implant to function and last.
Don’t hesitate to ask if you have any questions regarding your implant or the possibility of a bone graft. Dr. Kao, a top periodontist in Downtown Los Angeles, will be happy to help you every step of the way.