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Bone Grafting for Dental Implants

Dental implants are substitute tooth roots which are placed in the jaw bone. In order for an implant to be successful, the patient must have sufficient bone tissue to support the implant. If there is not enough bone tissue in the jaw bone, the bone will not be able to support the implant. In the past, this meant that it was not feasible for a patient to have dental implants – however, technology and science are advancing at a rapid rate and patients who have reduced bone tissue are now able to have treatment as a result of bone grafting.

What is bone grafting?

Bone grafting involves taking bone tissue from one area of high density and using it to bulk up an area of low density. In this case, the bone is removed from one area of the body and placed in the jaw bone. Bone grafts are most often taken from either the hip or another area of the mouth. The bone grafting procedure will be carried out if your dentist has discovered insufficient bone tissue in the jaw.

The procedure

  • The dentist will examine your mouth and carry out X-rays to confirm the depth and density of the tissue. If there is not enough bone to support an implant, they will discuss the bone grafting procedure with you.
  • Bone grafting sounds daunting, especially if you a nervous or dental phobic patient, but it is actually a relatively simple process. Once bone tissue has been taken from the donor site, an incision will be made in the gum, a flap of tissue lifted and the bone placed on the intended site.
  • The flap will then be returned to its original place and the gum stitched. A protective membrane will be placed to protect the wound and reduce the risk of infection.
  • Healing period following a bone graft varies according to the individual, but it is typically around 4 months.

Types of bone graft

There are different types of bone graft but the most common is called an Autograft (also known as Autogenous). This is where bone is taken from another part of the patient's body and used to bolster the jaw bone. It is also possible to use bone grafts taken from animals (xenografts) or other humans (allograft). A type of procedure called an alloplastic graft can also be conducted where synthetic material is used to strengthen the jaw bone.

Are there any disadvantages to bone grafting?

As with all procedures success is not guaranteed, but bone grafting is usually a very effective procedure. Following a bone graft the patient will have to wait an average of 3-4 months for the bone to integrate, which will obviously delay the treatment process. However, the wait will be worthwhile once the implants are placed and you are in possession of a rejuvenated smile.

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