Dental implants are the new phenomenon. Many patients are flocking to this revolutionary dental treatment for the replacement of missing teeth and the upgrade to their smiles. Yet oftentimes there’s a step that is necessary prior to the placement of dental implants. Everything must be carefully considered, and having a proper mental state is number one. Regardless, some patients don’t have the adequate jaw bone strength to support a dental implant. They then turn to a supplemental procedure called bone grafting. Bone grafting is defined as a surgical procedure that replaces missing bone in order to repair bone fractures that are complex. In dental health, your dentist will take bone from another part of your body (such as your chin or hip) and place it into the jawbone. This is mainly so the dental implant has enough bone to be fused to and supported by. Bone used for these bone grafts can come from many different sources including:
- The patient
- Another person
- An animal
- Synthetic materials
- A cadaver
While this sounds rather scary at first, your oral surgeon or dentist will inform you during the consultation that a bone graft is the most optimal way to maximize the dental implant treatment. It is a routine, predictable, and painless procedure. Once the bone graft is secure in the oral cavity, the dental implant placement has a greater chance of thriving.
A Brief History of the Bone Graft
As recent as the 1970′s and 80′s, before the renaissance of “dental implants”, much of preprosthetic oral surgery was aimed at simply building a stable base for a denture in patients who had experienced severe atrophy of their jaws. Many of our readers may identify with this when remembering a mother, father, aunt or uncle who, at an earlier age, had lost his or her teeth and were now wearing dentures. Many may also recall being distracted by those individuals’ dentures while they were either talking or eating. It was kind of like watching someone “rub their stomach and pat their head at the same time.” While it was unfortunate and often embarrassing, it was certainly not the fault of the denture wearer. The fact is that as we age, without teeth the underlying jawbone that supported the teeth atrophies with disuse. The truth is that the only reason our jaws have the amount of bone that they do is because of the
presence of existing teeth and the fact that those teeth are under continuous function. Once teeth are missing for one reason or another, the jaws quickly atrophy to a level of what is called “basal bone”. In cases of a complete loss of teeth, this can leave behind only a narrow hoop of bone in the mandible (lower jaw) or a flat pancake of bone in the maxilla (upper jaw).
Extravagant and often complicated hospital based procedures were devised to address this atrophy and attempt to rebuild the jaws to a point where the patient could comfortably wear a stable denture and have confidence during normal chewing or speaking functions. It was not uncommon to use fragments of a patient’s ribs to carefully construct a new arch in an attempt to increase the vertical size of the lower jaw.
Treatment was not only aimed at restoring function but in many cases to prevent a jaw fracture as the strength and size of the jaws were reduced with time. Skin grafts were sometimes harvested from the patient’s thighs to be applied (grafted) intraorally in an effort to prevent the oral musculature from displacing the denture while the person was talking or eating. These more severe methods of preprosthetic surgery are nearly absent from today’s treatment plans. The modernization of dental implants combined with a contemporary preventive approach to bone loss has virtually eliminated the need for such drastic measures.
Bone Grafting at Gentle Dentistry
While the need for bone grafting has been significantly reduced, it has not been eliminated entirely. However, it is now relegated to a minimally invasive procedure managed easily in an ambulatory office setting. At Gentle Dentistry in Haworth, NJ, Dr. Spector and his professional staff answer your questions regarding bone grafts and how they can help your dental implants last a lifetime. When considering dental implants, and you discover your gums and teeth are in need of bone grafting, Dr. Spector has you covered. Give us a call to schedule your no-obligation consultation. Find out how to enhance the quality of your smile.