When contending with serious dental issues like deep cavities, excessive tooth misalignment, or a dead tooth that needs to be pulled, many dental patients will make the choice to receive some form of dental implantation.
What is a dental implant?
A dental implant is a surgically installed material that acts as a base for artificial teeth, serving the purpose of improving dental health and functionality. This purpose can include fixing or improving the appearance of tooth decay, cavities, misalignment, tooth loss, and staining, among other things.
Dental implants are designed to work as a sort of artificial tooth root, interfacing with the gums and jaw the same way that a natural root would. This way, any artificial tooth replacement affixed to it can be firmly fastened in place, maintaining the normal appearance of a patient’s smile. Common dental implants include dentures, crowns, bridges, veneers, and many more.
In some cases, dentists may recommend a dental bone graft for patients intending to receive a dental implant.
What is a dental bone graft?
A dental bone graft is the reallocation of bone material to the jaw to increase its density and sturdiness prior to an invasive dental procedure such as dental implantation. Bone grafts are also often performed immediately after tooth extraction or in patients with signs of gum disease to prevent tooth loss.
Dental bone grafts can be made of four different materials:
- Autograft: Bone from the patient’s own body, typically coming from the leg or chin
- Allograft: Bone from another human source, often coming from a bone and tissue bank
- Alloplast: Non-biological bone-like material, usually made of plastic or metal
- Xenograft: Bone from an animal, typically a horse
Depending on the context of your procedure and the severity of your need for increased bone density, your dentist will choose which grafting material will work best for you. The resources most readily available in your area will also be taken into account.
Bone grafting can take place on the same day as a scheduled dental implantation, but most dentists will recommend leaving 4 to 6 months between grafting and implantation so that the grafting material can fully integrate with the jaw, creating the most stable implantation area possible.
What kinds of patients need dental bone grafts?
Bone grafts can benefit multiple types of dental patients, including:
- Those of an advanced age. Aging can cause loss of bone density, making dental implantation riskier.
- Those with missing teeth. Loss of teeth can decrease bone density in the jaw, especially near the site of the lost tooth.
- Those with untreated gum disease. Gum disease is known to weaken teeth and roots, therefore damaging jawbone health.
How do I know if I need a bone graft before my dental implantation?
For those with excellent dental and bone health, bone grafts are often unnecessary for a successful dental implantation surgery. However, dental bone grafts are extremely common; in fact, studies show that grafting precedes over half of all dental implantation procedures.
If you are seeking a dental implant and have a history of low bone density and/or poor dental health, ask your dentist if a dental bone graft is right for you.