Bone Graft for Dental Implants

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In today’s world of modern dentistry, bone grafting for dental implants is a routine procedure with a very high success rate. A bone grafting procedure can be performed in a dental office as an outpatient service. One of the first steps in understanding bone grafting is to discuss where bone material is harvested for this type of procedure. In the early years of bone grafting, the harvesting of bone material was typically from the patient’s bone at various target sites throughout the body. Also, years ago, large quantities of bone material were required to perform a typical bone grafting procedure. Today, the process of sourcing bone grafting material is different and has been made very efficient and more reliable.

When it has been determined that a patient will require bone grafting for dental implants, the dental care provider will discuss all options about sourcing bone material. In many instances, the processed bone that has been harvested from animals such as a cow is often the most affordable, reliable, and efficient option. This type of graft material is known as a xenograft and is made up primarily of mineral content extracted from natural bone. This type of bone material is thoroughly sterilized, with all organic material being removed. Graft material known as the bovine bone has become the new standard when grafting of bone for dental purposes is necessary. In short, this method has a tried, tested, and proven track record that goes back many years.

Perhaps the simplest explanation of all when it comes to grafting the bone is that it is intended to be a biological placeholder or sorts. This makes it clear to see why using bovine bone graft material is, in many cases, the best option. As a placeholder, sourced bone material first acts as a mechanical type of physical construct that prevents the collapse of the surrounding tissue. Sometimes referred to as guided tissue regeneration, the grafting of bone essentially enables the human body to be fooled from a biochemical standpoint. In essence, the body interprets the graft as a natural bone. That said, over time, the bone material is reabsorbed into the patient’s body, where the body then replaces it with the patient’s native bone.

While there are indeed cases where more significant or major autogenous bone grafts are necessary as a way to provide a solid foundation for dental implants, bone grafting is most frequently required for three primary types of outpatient procedures. These three procedures are listed below:

  1. The sinus lift procedure
  2. The block bone graft or autogenous ramus/chin graft
  3. The socket graft or alveolar ridge preservation graft

If you require dental implants, your dental surgeon will explore the options available to you, including one of these types of grafts or a combination of more than one kind of graft. Understanding the possibilities of bone grafting and dental implants may be as simple as understanding these three more commonly used types of procedures.

The sinus lift procedure or subantral graft

This particular type of grafting procedure involves the upper jaw or what is known as the maxilla. This kind of grafting is unique in several ways, including how dental implants are ultimately placed. Perhaps most notable of all is the fact that the procedure is different than other grafting procedures simply because the maxilla is near the maxillary sinus. As one of several natural air spaces inherent within the body, the maxillary sinus must be carefully considered and delicately handled always to ensure a successful outcome for the patient. The primary purpose of the maxillary sinus is to moisturize, warm, and ultimately filter air as we breathe. Another unique aspect of the maxillary sinus is that cold weather and infections tend to make us more conscious of this part of our body. Most notably, when the sinuses are irritated or infected, the roots of teeth located in the upper jaw can be affected and may even become painful.

The block bone graft or autogenous ramus/chin graft

Depending upon the level of complexity of the dental case at hand, there are situations where composite material such as bovine bone is not suitable enough in terms of overall bulk needed to replace bone missing due to tooth loss fully. When this is the case, it is often necessary to harvest the patient’s native bone. This is required to assist in a procedure known as a live bone replacement. Several scenarios may need this more aggressive approach to bone grafting. This includes the jawbone loss that was caused by some dental trauma. Patients with congenital reasons for missing teeth and those who have tooth loss caused by diseases such as tumors, infection, or cysts are also likely candidates for this type of procedure. As a note, even patients who have areas where teeth have been extracted without the use of immediate socket graphs are considered good candidates for this particular procedure.

 The socket graft or alveolar ridge preservation graft

When a tooth is extracted, there typically remains a substantial hole in the jawbone that is only surrounded by the alveolar bone or tooth-supporting bone. The only real purpose of this bone is to support the tooth that it encompasses. When a tooth is lost either through extraction or for some other reason, the body then begins to reabsorb the bone. This can be prevented by immediately filling the open space with an implant, another tooth, or some bone graft. In this situation, the ridge preservation graft or socket graft is the preferred procedure.

In some cases, it is possible to place a dental implant immediately following a tooth extraction. This, in effect, fills the space, thereby preventing bone reabsorption. Any time bone atrophy can be prevented, the patient benefits.

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