Is a Bone Graft Necessary for Dental Implants?

By Ettienne Van Zyl on January 07, 2014

Memphis Bone GraftIf you are currently suffering from missing teeth, or require a tooth extraction in the near future, dental implants can help you achieve a full, healthy smile once again. Whether through single implants or implant-supported bridges and dentures, this restorative treatment is an excellent way to preserve your dental health.

While not all patients may be candidates initially, there are often additional steps that can be taken to help one qualify for implants. If your jaw is unable to currently support implants due to bone loss, consider the benefits of a bone graft at our Memphis practice. Here’s what you should know about a grafting procedure and general candidacy for dental implants. 

Who Is a Candidate for Dental Implants?

Most patients with one or multiple missing teeth are good candidates for implants, assuming the gum and bone tissue are healthy enough to support them. Unlike other tooth replacement techniques that simply rest above the gum line, an implant is installed directly into the jaw, similar to a real tooth. Patients must therefore be able to support the implant with existing bone tissue, just as a healthy jaw is necessary to hold a tooth’s natural roots.

If a patient has lost a significant amount of bone tissue, often due to advanced gum disease or prolonged tooth loss, a bone graft can often increase one’s candidacy for implants. Although the prospect of a bone graft may seem daunting at first, the process is surprisingly simple and safe, with a high rate of success.

How Is a Bone Graft Performed?

If you and your cosmetic dentist determine that a dental bone graft is right for you, the next step is to decide on the source of bone tissue. For many patients, the easiest and most reliable solution is to take tissue from another area of the body, such as the hip, chin, or a nearby area of the mouth. Occasionally, an alternative source of tissue can be procured from a donor, animal (usually a cow), or through a synthetic replacement.

Once you are ready to undergo a graft, treatment can proceed as follows:

  • Anesthesia is administered into the gums, jaw, and adjacent teeth, preventing discomfort during surgery. Sedation may also be used at your dentist’s discretion.
  • An incision is made into the gum line, above the area where the graft is to be performed.
  • The graft tissue is placed above the jaw’s existing bone and often held in place via screws or an artificial membrane.
  • The incision is closed and sutured, allowing the graft to heal.

While some side effects of surgery can be expected, such as swelling, bruising, and soreness, the majority of the healing process should be pain- and problem-free. After the first couple of weeks, patients can expect an easy recovery as the bone graft fuses with the jaw through osseointegration. For patients in good health and with a low risk factor, osseointegration may be complete in just a few months. Larger grafts, coupled with longer recovery times, may require up to a year to fully heal. 

Dental Implants After a Bone Graft

Most patients who undergo a bone graft can go on to receive implants with long-term success. It should be noted, however, that such patients may also have a longer recovery time from the implant procedure, and may experience more pronounced side effects immediately after surgery. Nevertheless, the right health precautions and expectations can help ensure the best chances of successful and satisfying results. Because every patient is unique, you should speak with your dentist to gain a more accurate understanding of how a bone graft and implant procedure will affect you.   

Health Risks

When performed by an experienced dentist, both procedures present few risks of health complications. Before surgery, speak with your dentist about any risk factors you may have, including systemic disease, a compromised immune system, and habits such as tobacco or alcohol use. As with any surgery, a small risk of infection is present; be sure to take proper precautions prior to and following surgery to prevent infection.   

For some patients, bone grafts pose a small risk of complications, including blood clots, nerve damage, and skin irregularities. To better understand your individual risks, schedule a consultation with Dr. van Zyl. 

Learn More about Dental Implants

Implants are often the best option for patients looking to preserve the natural strength and appearance of their teeth. Contact us today to learn more about our restorative techniques and which ones may benefit you.  

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