It’s such a scary phrase: bone graft. To someone who is getting a dental implant, that might sound like the most terrifying part. But hear this: It’s definitely not as deep as it sounds. So what is a bone graft, you ask? And will you need to get one prior to your dental implant?
Following are some of the basics you’ll want to know, which can help put your mind at ease.
What Sometimes Happens When You Lose a Tooth
After a tooth is extracted, your gums and jawbone no longer have the support of that tooth root. That’s OK for a short amount of time while your gums and jawbone heal. However, if you wait too long to have that missing tooth replaced, the structure and integrity of the jawbone will be affected. The bone may shrink in a sense and become more narrow.
When that happens, it also becomes a cosmetic issue. Because of this narrowing of the bone, there will be more space between your teeth and the inside of your cheek. In other words, the cheek won’t have as much solid structure to support it. As a result, you may experience a drooping of your cheek in that area. Long story short, if you have a missing tooth, you should get it replaced as soon as possible to avoid that.
If you didn’t, there is a way to restore the integrity of that area: a bone graft.
What is a Bone Graft?
Not everyone who is getting a dental implant needs a bone graft. It’s only necessary if the jawbone has already deteriorated, the dentist feels that it could deteriorate very soon, or it’s preferable for any other reason.
A bone graft can take place immediately after an extraction in order to prevent deterioration, or it can be completed years later to restructure the space. After creating an incision in the gum, the oral surgeon will place a bone grafting material around the missing tooth area to simulate the original shape of the jawbone.
In some cases, the surgeon may take bone from another area of your body instead of using the material, but that’s rarely the case these days.
In fact, the entire bone grafting procedure only takes about 5 or 10 minutes, and because you’ll be anesthetized, you really won’t feel much at all.
The Healing Process and What Could Happen Next
A number of scenarios could take place, all of which will require healing time after the procedure.
1. You could have only an extraction, depending on urgency, cost, and other factors. If so, you’ll need several days to heal, and your dentist will send you home with instructions for post-operative care. If this is the case and you choose to have a dental implant placed weeks, months, or years later, you may:
• Be able to have the implant completed without a bone grafting if the bone has not deteriorated
• Need a bone graft first, and then wait a few months for the area to heal before returning for the implant procedure
• Have a bone graft and dental implant completed at the same time
2. You could have an extraction and bone grafting completed at the same time, and then return a few months later for the placement of the implant.
3. In some cases, it’s possible to have all three steps completed at the same time: the extraction, bone grafting, and implant. While this is convenient, keep in mind that you will be at the dentist’s office for a few hours. Cost may be a factor as well, although many dentists will work with you with payment plans or similar arrangements.
Dr. Jennifer Holtzman of Fisher Pointe Dental is a recognized leader in implant dentistry, and all of these steps can be handled right in our Grosse Pointe dental office in most cases. Contact us to learn more about what a bone graft is and what you can expect regarding a dental implant procedure.