Bone grafting is a common process that is undertaken prior to a patient having dental implants. While not everyone needs a bone graft for dental implants, the fact remains that once a tooth is lost, up to 25% of the surrounding bone tissue can reabsorb back into the body within the first year.
Simply put, a bone graft is required to build up the levels of bone tissue so that any dental implants can be safely and securely anchored. So if you’re concerned that you might require a bone graft, here’s everything you need to know…
The first thing you should know is that if you do end up needing a bone graft prior to dental implant placement it will affect two things:
- The overall length of treatment and,
- The overall cost
Bone grafting is a surgical procedure after all, and by adding additional surgery, it will require additional recovery time which will make the process longer.
So where does the bone come from?
Believe it or not, there are various places that bone can be derived these include:
Using bone from your own body
Known more commonly as an autograft this bone grafting procedure requires that small amounts of bone be taken from one site on the body (typically from your chin or back of the jaw) and transferred into the implant site.
On the plus side, there’s little to no chance of rejection, making it a safe option, but on the negative side, two surgery sites are required and therefore patients can expect a longer recovery period.
Using bone donated from another person/party
Commonly known as an allograft, this is bone tissue which has been donated from a member of the same species. In this case, donations come from a bone bank.
On a positive point, allografting is clinically reliable, and recovery is quicker as only one surgical site is needed. However not all allografts are equal in terms of dental application, sterility and processing potential.
Using bone donated from animals
Although rarely used nowadays, patients may have the option of receiving bone from an animal usually a pig or cow. Known as a xenograft, it’s proven to be a safe and reliable form of bone grafting
The good news is that xenograft bone is plentiful and therefore there’s no chance of not having enough bone to build up the dental implants site. On the negative side, however, is one of ethics. Some people may be put off by the thought of being implanted with animal bone.
Utilising bone derived from synthetic bone material
Great strides have been made in recent years to reproduce bone tissue synthetically. Known as an alloplastic bone graft, it cleverly utilises materials such as calcium phosphate, surgical grade resins, and hydroxyapatite. These synthetic minerals act as a scaffold which, in turn, encourages your own bone to regenerate into the synthetic alloplastic material.
The pros are that synthetic reproduction is plentiful and because there are no other humans or animals involved, it’s ethically sound too. On the downside, because bone materials need to be replicated, it’s often more costly than other bone grafting procedures.
So which one is right for you prior to dental implants?
Every patient is different and therefore an implant dentist is likely to choose the right bone graft they believe will work best. This is usually based upon
- The needs and requirements of the patient
- The size of the dental implants site and
- The amount of bone needed.
When and where does a bone graft for dental implants take place?
If you’ve been told you need a bone graft before undergoing dental implants, in most cases they can be carried out chairside as patients don’t need to be hospitalised. Dentists may use IV sedation or a general anaesthetic while they perform the graft. In some cases where multiple sites require bone grafting, patients may be required to visit a dental hospital.
Although it is possible in some instances for dental implants to be placed simultaneously with bone grafts, this is the exception rather than the rule. In general terms, bone grafting is carried out 4-6 months before dental implants can be fitted. This is because time is needed for the replacement tissue to fuse with any existing tissue to make a better implant site.
Is the bone grafting process painful?
With advancements in anaesthetics the actual surgical process itself shouldn’t be painful at all. What’s more, it’s usually over within 45-90 minutes, so it’s relatively quick.
However, patients can and should expect some slight discomfort including numbness for a few days/weeks after the process, until the dental implants site heals.
Some people also experience a little bruising and swelling while others may expect a little bleeding. The good news is that this is the body’s way of healing itself, so it’s a sign that you’re on the mend!
However, if patients experience ongoing pain and/or bleeding after several weeks, they should go back to their dentist.
What about eating?
Patients should avoid hard, chewy and crunchy foods at the bone grafting site until the graft has had time to settle. This is usually around the 2-4 week mark. Most prefer to adopt a softer food diet at the start, then gradually introduce other foods into the mix, until after 4-6 months they are eating normally.
So there you have it, everything you need to know about a bone graft for dental implants and probably more besides. If, however, you want to know whether you’re a candidate for dental implants, then contact Dr. Rai and the team at Dentistry on Solent. We use the latest dental technology combined with gentle dental techniques to ensure our patients get the very best treatment. Call today to book your free dental implants consultation on 02 9158 6137 and let us help to give you a transformed smile you can be proud of.