Teeth are complex in the way they work. They require support from both the jaw and gums to have a sturdy foundation that helps you confidently go through your days eating and speaking. But did you know that the bones related to the teeth also rely on your teeth just as much as teeth rely on the bones? This is where bone grafting comes into play and at East Lyme Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery we want to explain what bone grafting is and why it is often a critical procedure before dental implants are done.
What Is Bone Grafting?
As previously mentioned, your teeth rely on a special bone for support and on the flip side, this bone relies on it as well. This is called the alveolar bone and its sole purpose is to hold your teeth. When a tooth is lost this bone begins to slowly atrophy (disintegrate) because there isn’t anything to stimulate the bone anymore. It is important to remember that all the bones in your body require work to stay strong and healthy and this isn’t particularly exclusive to the alveolar bone. This also includes your jawbone which needs help from teeth to stay strong - without the pressure that chewing provides, the jaws can become weakened.
What does this all mean? It means that this lost bone needs to be replaced before dental implants are used. Bone grafting is a procedure that takes healthy bone from another area or from a donor and places it where bone loss has occurred. If the alveolar bone has atrophied or is infected then it is impossible for the implants to be supported properly until a graft surgery is performed.
Types of Bone Grafting Procedures
The most common type of bone grafting is called a socket graft. This procedure is meant to prevent the alveolar bone from atrophying. This will help keep the tooth socket from collapsing and, usually, a bone from a donor is used for this.
Additionally, there is a block bone graft that involves taking bone from the back of the jaw and placing it where defects have occurred. The bone is then held by titanium screws to keep it sturdy.
Next is a lateral ridge preservation graft, this involves making more area in the jaw by placing additional bone. This widens the jawbone which is important for having enough room for implants.
The last procedure we will quickly go over is a sinus lift procedure. This is for implants that are placed in the upper jaw. Equine bone is typically used for this procedure for its strength.
After The Procedure
After the bone grafting procedure has taken place, there is a waiting period to let the bone graft fuse with your original bones. This can take up to several months or more - but in the end, it is worth it once we give the approval for the patient to receive their implants. It is important to note that the implants themselves also have to fuse with the jawbone before the prosthetic teeth are placed. Overall, the process from bone graft to fully installed implants can take almost a year or longer in some circumstances. We appreciate the patience of everyone going on this journey and we at East Lyme Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery can assure you that the end result will result in decades of smiles! If you’d like to make an appointment with us, you can call our office at (860) 934-7809.