Dental implants are becoming increasingly popular to permanently replace lost teeth. According to the American Academy of Implant Dentistry (AAID), 3 million Americans currently have dental implants, and 500,000 additional individuals will get one in the next year. Sometimes, an implant patient may need an alloplastic bone graft before having their new tooth placed. Here's how this procedure works to support a dental implant.
When Implants Require Bone Grafts
If a patient needs a dental implant placed, the dentist first checks to see if there is enough healthy bone in the area where the tooth is missing. If there isn't enough bone, they may recommend a procedure called a bone graft. A study published in Maxillofacial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery found that bone grafts were needed in approximately 50 percent of implant placement procedures, so don't be surprised or discouraged if your dentist or oral surgeon recommends one for you.
To complete the bone graft, your oral surgeon may take bone from another part of your body or use synthetic bone to reconstruct and strengthen your jawbone, explains John Hopkins Medicine. Once the bone graft heals, they can place the dental implant and allow it to fuse with your bone. This ensures that your new tooth is strong and secure.
What Are Alloplastic Bone Grafts?
Johns Hopkins notes that an alloplastic bone graft is made of synthetic materials. Alloplastic bone grafts are most commonly composed of calcium phosphates, including tricalcium phosphate and hydroxyapatite, which are minerals found in natural bone, according to a review in the Journal of Dental & Allied Sciences. These materials promote bone healing through a process called osteoconduction, which means that the graft forms a scaffolding that encourages outside bone cells to form new bone on the surface of the graft. In short, this process makes your jawbone strong enough to support your implant.
Types of Bone Grafts
A study in BMC Medical Ethics describes these four main types of bone grafts:
- Alloplast. When your oral surgeon recommends an alloplastic bone graft, they are referring to a graft composed of synthetic, non-human material.
- Autograft. An autograft involves taking bone from another part of the patient's body, often from the hip.
- Allograft. When the bone comes from another person (usually a cadaver), the procedure is called an allograft.
- Xenograft. A xenograft involves taking bone from an animal.
While autografts are often considered the "gold standard" because using a patient's own bone makes the regeneration process more seamless, they aren't possible in every case. Your dental professional will work with you to determine which bone graft procedure is right for you and will have the proper training to perform the surgery safely and effectively.
How to Care for Dental Implants
Once your bone graft has been completed and your dental implant has been placed, you can enjoy your replacement tooth or teeth for decades if you properly take care of it, reports the AAID. Clean your dental implants just as you would your natural teeth. This involves brushing and flossing as a part of your daily routine.
See your dentist at least every six months for regular cleanings and oral examinations. If any problems arise with your implant, they will be able to catch them early on and treat them accordingly.