As people grow older and lose teeth, we begin to lose jawbone structure. After a tooth falls out and its roots are no longer stimulating bone growth in the jawbone, a process called “resorption” — a shrinking of the bone structure — begins. Resorption and bone loss can cause a number of problems for patients. It can lead to “sunken” facial profile, wrinkling of the skin, damage to remaining teeth, speech problems and trouble with eating meals. Fortunately, we have the ability to regrow bone in the jaw, through a procedure called bone grafting. One sufficient jawbone structure has been regrown, it allows us to install dental implants which will help to restore the shape and function of the mouth.
Types of Bone Graft Materials
Depending on the type of bone graft, there are several different materials that can be used for the procedure. Here are some of the most common types used by our office:
- Autogenous Graft: An “autograft” is a procedure in which bone is taken from another part of the patient’s body and implanted in the jawbone. The advantage of an autograft is that living bone is used, so it’s ready to fuse to existing jawbone structure. The disadvantage is that it does require a separate procedure to harvest the piece of bone.
- Allogenic Graft: An “allograft” utilizes bone harvested from a human cadaver. Allografts are the preferred method of performing a bone graft and this type of procedure has been used successfully for decades.
- Xenogenic: Sometimes bone from a different species can be used to perform a graft procedure. Xenogenic grafts are usually done with cow bone, but the grafting process takes longer to achieve.
Socket Preservation Graft
If a tooth needs to be extracted for any reason, a socket preservation graft might be done to ensure adequate bone structure for a dental implant. When the tooth is removed, care must be taken to preserve as much natural bone structure as possible. A socket preservation graft ensures that the height and width of the bone structure can successfully support an implant. This is a common procedure in which the bone graft is only done to preserve structure in a single tooth socket.
Sinus Lift Graft
When a person loses teeth in the upper back part of the mouth (or has them extracted), this can cause the sinus cavity above the roof of the mouth to expand downward. This prevents the ability to insert dental implants, which could replace those missing teeth. A sinus lift graft or sinus floor elevation graft can be performed by an oral surgeon to lift the sinus membrane and attach a bone graft to the sinus floor. After about 4 to 6 months of healing time, the patient will likely be ready to receive dental implants.
Ridge Augmentation Graft
If the ridge of the jawbone undergoes resorption after a tooth is lost or extracted, an augmentation procedure can be done to restore the ridge to its original height and shape. The purpose, as with a socket preservation graft, is to provide enough bone structure to support dental implants. Ridge augmentation is especially needed in patients who lost a tooth (or teeth) several years ago, which can cause the resorption process to begin.
Missing teeth in the lower jawbone can cause the inferior alveolar nerve to shift from its original position. This makes dental implants impossible. Your oral surgeon can perform a bone graft in this situation which moves the nerve bundle back to its original location.
Our team of oral surgeons can perform the above bone grafting procedures which in turn allow patients to receive dental implants. If you are missing teeth and want to know more about bone grafting and dental implants, contact our office to schedule an appointment.