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Dental implants are placed in the position of the roots of the natural teeth they replace. Proper dental implant placement requires that the bone that supports teeth and dental implants is similar in shape to the bone that naturally exists in that area.
In areas of missing teeth, the supporting bone shortens and narrows over time. In these and other situations, bone grafting may be required to rebuild or maintain the supporting bone, to allow for predictable placement of dental implants.
Most patients wonder what a bone graft is and where it comes from. A bone graft fills a space with bone or a bone substitute, and your body replaces that material with your own bone over time. The graft material can be borrowed from another place in your own mouth, or it is obtained from a tissue bank. Graft materials have been proven to be safe and predictable. A bone graft is usually a straightforward procedure and is often performed at the same time as the dental implant placement.
When a tooth is removed, the space where the tooth root was housed is called the socket. During healing, the socket typically fills in with new bone. In certain situations, the natural healing process alone may not create an ideal environment for a dental implant. In these cases, a small bone graft is placed at the time of tooth removal to improve the bone quality and health before implant placement. A socket preservation graft typically does not add to your recovery time and may allow for earlier replacement of your tooth with a dental implant.
Sinus Lift Procedure
We all have anatomic structures called sinuses, which are hollow areas behind the cheeks and above the upper back teeth. If the bone that normally separates the teeth from the sinus is thin, a procedure called a sinus augmentation, or sinus lift, may be necessary to support dental implants in these areas. The purpose of a sinus lift is to increase the volume of the bone that will support your dental implant. Your oral surgeon uses special instruments to make a small opening next to the sinus and then carefully lifts the sinus lining away from the bone above the teeth. This creates a small space between the bone and the sinus lining where bone graft material is placed. The graft material is incorporated by your body and is replaced with your own natural bone over time, allowing one or more dental implants to be firmly secured by healthy bone. Typically you will recover from this procedure over the course of several days, and the new bone will mature over a few months. Dental implants are often placed at the same time as a sinus lift procedure, but in certain situations, a sinus lift procedure will need to be performed before dental implants can be placed.
The alveolar bone is a special type of bone that surrounds and supports teeth and dental implants. When teeth are missing, the alveolar bone has the appearance of a ridge, which will naturally narrow over time, especially when teeth in the area have been missing for an extended period of time. If this is the case for you, your surgeon may recommend that you have a ridge expansion procedure. A ridge expansion widens the jaw to provide enough bone to support a dental implant. To perform a ridge expansion, your oral surgeon will use your natural alveolar ridge and add bone graft material to widen the supporting bone for future dental implants.