Patients with insufficient natural, healthy bone to support dental implants could be ideal candidates for bone augmentation, which is the process of rebuilding the bone. The goal is to provide a sound structure where implants can be placed and secured in the alveolar bone structure. The augmentation is most commonly done by a bone graft, which is placing bone graft material to the existing bone in your jaw, which then adheres to it to form new bone, notes the Mayo Clinic.
Reasons for Augmentation
For dental implants to take hold successfully, your jaw needs to have healthy bone to support them and hold them securely into the jawbone. If you've previously experienced oral conditions, such as gum or periodontal disease, injury or trauma to your face and jaw, the quality of your bone may be compromised. Patients who have had teeth extracted and left the spaces empty or have worn dentures for many years could also find their bone density level insufficient to support dental implants, according to the American Academy of Implant Dentistry.
Modern bone grafting is generally a painless, minimally invasive procedure completed in your periodontist's or oral surgeon's office. If the dental specialist decides to perform your bone augmentation at the same time as the tooth extraction, it helps you to heal faster. For patients with teeth missing for a length of time, however, the process begins with a local anesthetic to numb the area and an incision in the gum tissue is made to expose the bone. The surgeon then attaches the bone graft material to the exposed bone in the mouth, which contains collagen and proteins that encourage bone growth, and then the area is sutured to close the gum tissue.
As new bone grows, it replaces the graft material, which is absorbed completely. The new bone can take from a few weeks up to nine months to heal before dental implants can be placed, depending on the extent of the graft and the condition of the existing bone.
Where the Bone Comes From
There are several options for bone grafting material. The first option is autograft where the bone is taken from the person who is having the procedure. The material used for dental bone augmentation can be a section of bone obtained from elsewhere on your body, such as your chin, hip or shin bone. In some instances, the dental specialist will remove bone from this area utilizing local anesthesia and sedation, but if bone is used from the hip, you may need to have the surgery in the hospital under general anesthesia.
Alternative options include bone harvested from another human or cadaver called allograft. The third type is xenograft which is usually taken from animals, such as cows. The fourth is called alloplast which is a synthetic bone graft developed in a laboratory. Harvested bone is carefully disinfected and processed to ensure no bacteria or diseases are passed on to the person receiving the bone graft. Both harvested and synthetic bone supplies can be kept in the dental office and used with local anesthesia for your augmentation procedure.
Other Types of Dental Procedures to Support Bone Growth
A number of other surgeries can be completed to build bone in your mouth to support dental implants, which include the following:
- Sinus lift or subantral graft procedure, which increases the height of the bone in your upper jaw above the premolar and molar teeth to support placement of dental implants.
- Ridge expansion, a surgical procedure that is conducted to widen the upper jaw to support dental implants. The bone is divided and bone graft material is placed in the divided area to create new bone to widen the upper jaw.
- Distraction osteogenesis, allows a shorter bone to be made into a longer bone. The bone is cut during surgery and a distractor pulls the two pieces of bone apart slowly and new bone forms to fill in the space.
- An alveolar ridge preservation, or socket preservation, is a surgical procedure to reduce bone loss after tooth extraction and prevent bone resorption, according to the literature review referenced by the American Association of Dental Consultants.
Care and Treatment
After undergoing bone augmentation, your dental specialist will give you oral care instructions to follow while you wait for the new bone to regenerate. It takes between six to nine months to heal completely, and during this time you may not be able to wear a denture or eat certain foods. Your oral surgeon might recommend that you rinse with a mouthwash, such as Colgate Total Advanced Pro-Shield mouthwash. It provides 12 hours of antibacterial protection and kills 99 percent of bacteria on contact. You may be prescribed antibiotics to prevent infection and pain medication to alleviate discomfort.
Augmenting the bone to accommodate dental implants might sound like a complex and invasive procedure, but your dental professional will have your smile looking great in no time.