Bone Grafting for Dental Implants

In order to place a dental implant, there must first be adequate jawbone. Without sufficient bone mass, the dental implant is more likely to fail early or have trouble fusing with the existing bone at all. For this reason, bone grafting is sometimes required before the implant is placed.

Dental Implants: Will I need bone grafting?

Only a thorough examination in our office can tell us if you will need a bone graft, but here are a few commonly occurring instances that often indicate its necessity:

  • When a tooth has been missing for several months or more. If you lost a tooth or had an extraction and didn’t have an implant or graft placed at the same time, your jawbone has likely deteriorated.
  • You experienced trauma or infection that caused a defect in the bone.
  • Missing front teeth. The walls of the front teeth sockets are often very thin and have a difficult time regenerating on their own.
  • Sinus cavities that are very large or low. In this case, a “sinus lift” may be required to help restore the bone height needed for implant placement.

Do I have enough bone for a dental implant?

After tooth extraction, if the walls of the socket are very thick, they will usually fill naturally with bone in two-to-three months. However, when the walls of your socket are very thin (such as in your upper and lower front teeth), this type of healing will not be as predictable. In these situations, a bone graft is often placed at the time of tooth extraction to help your body fill in the empty socket with bone. This step will maintain the width and volume of bone you will need for dental implant placement several months later.

An example of a jaw with inadequate front bone structure to support an implant
1. Inadequate Bone
A depiction of the placed bone grafting material to increase the bone structure
2. Graft Material Placed
A representation of dental implants placed after bone grafting
3. Implants Placed

There may be inadequate bone for dental implant placement if your tooth was removed many years ago and your bony ridge is extremely thin. In this case, a bone graft can be placed next to the thin bone and allowed to heal for up to six months. After the graft has fused to your pre-existing bone, the ridge will be re-entered and the dental implant placed. Bone grafting is usually a relatively comfortable office procedure. Many different bone-grafting materials are available, including your own bone.

A jaw lacking enough bone in the back of the mouth for a dental implant
1. Inadequate Bone
An example of a dental implant after adding jaw structure with bone grafting
2. Graft Material and Implant Placed

You may also need bone grafting if the sinus cavities in your upper jaw are very large, or very low, and extend into the tooth-bearing areas. This often occurs when teeth in the back of a person’s upper jaw have been removed many years before, and the amount of bone available for implant placement is limited. A “sinus grafting procedure” is then required. Most often, it is performed in the office with local anesthesia and perhaps sedation. During this procedure, the membrane that lines the sinus will be located and elevated. Bone will then be added to restore the bone height and ensure that dental implants of an adequate length can be placed. This procedure often can be performed at the time of dental implant placement.

What is recovery from bone grafting like?

Bone grafting may cause some post-op soreness for a few days, but typically this mild pain can be managed with over-the-counter medications. Any necessary prescriptions will be discussed at your appointment.

For more information about Bone Grafting for Dental Implants or to schedule a consultation with Dr. Hill, call our office in Chapel Hill, NC at Chapel Hill Implant and Oral Surgery Center Phone Number 919-238-9961