Bone Grafting for Dental Implants

While not always the case, often the placement of a dental implant requires a bone grafting procedure. The reason for this is that the primary purpose of much of the bone in our upper and lower jaws is to support our teeth.   As a result, when a tooth is lost the body quickly begins to resorb the bone, unless it is immediately replaced with either another tooth, implant or in this case a “ridge preservation graft” (socket graft). Occasionally, it is possible to place an implant at the time of a tooth extraction. In these cases, the implant will act almost like a tent pole to hold the surrounding bone up and give it the functional requirements necessary to prevent it from undergoing atrophy. However, this is not always possible to due to local anatomy and/or the presence of infection. In these cases it is prudent to place a socket preservation graft. The socket graft is designed to fill the void left by the extracted tooth and hold the volume of this space while natural bone has the opportunity to proliferate and fill the space with high quality live bone. Depending on the size of the tooth that was extracted, the ridge graft requires between three to six months before an implant can be placed.

A simplified explanation for the success of this form of grafting is that the bone graft material is placed to act as a “biological placeholder.” Initially, it mechanically prevents the collapse of the surrounding tissues, whether that is bone or soft tissue. Then, through a process called “guided tissue regeneration,” the human body is fooled biochemically to recognize the graft as natural bone and over time resorbs and replaces it with the patient’s own native bone.

Bone graft material comes from four general sources; your own available bone, freeze dried human bone from a tissue bank, processed bone elements from animals, and, finally, a mineral bone substitute.  For the purposes of dental implant placement, we use freeze dried human bone from a tissue bank.  If you were to require more extensive grafting, we work hand in hand with a number of periodontist and oral surgeons that can provide the services you would need.