Dental implants and bone grafts

Some patients may need bone grafting to allow for a dental implant procedure

Whilst many of us worry about the condition of our teeth and sometimes our gums, few of us probably give much thought at all to the bone in our jaw; unless we break it in an accident of course. This is understandable as the bone is (hopefully) not visible but the condition of them can affect the shape of our face as well as causing some problems should a dental implant be required for the patient. If the bone thins too much it can have the effect of giving a sunken appearance to our face. For the placing of dental implants though, there needs to be sufficient density for the dental implant to be placed into and for it then to bond around the implant and hold it firmly in place. Whilst those who have good bone density should have no problem in having dental implants fitted, others are likely to need a bone graft. This is most likely to apply to those who have lost a lot of teeth for some time, heavy smokers and those on certain medications which can affect the bone. Even in these cases though dental implants can be placed but only after a bone graft has been performed.

A bone graft simply means adding some more bone to the thin part and allowing it to integrate and form a solid block of bone of sufficient size and density for the implant to be placed. Whilst the bone used in the graft can be artificial or from a cadaver or even some animals such as a cow; the vast majority are taken from the patient themselves. This is the most successful method as it has the least chance of being rejected by the body.

Once the bone has been grafted and has completely healed, it should then be strong enough to have a dental implant placed into it.

The implant procedure itself involves the drilling into the now dense bone with a specialist drill and into this hole, the titanium implant is screwed. These probably all sounds a bit DIY but the procedure is done using x-rays and other sophisticated tools and the implant itself is a piece of precise engineering.

After the implant has been placed, the flap of skin that was lifted to allow the drilling will be replaced and the patient will be asked to return in approximately 3 months when the bonding process should have finished and it is strong enough for the crown to be attached.

Once the crown is attached, the patient should have a strong tooth that will last for around twenty years and should look and feel very similar to a natural tooth.