Getting dental implants is both exciting and a bit anxiety-generating for most patients. While you're excited to finally have natural-looking teeth in your mouth again, knowing that you will have to go through a couple of surgical procedures and healing periods to get there is not always pleasant. Thus, when your dentist tells you that you will need another procedure – bone grafts – before your dental implants, it is normal to have a lot of questions and feel a bit frustrated. Here's what you need to know about this procedure:
What are bone grafts?
Bone grafts are pieces of cadaver bone that your dentist can attach to your own natural jaw bone to build it up. They are used when a patient does not have enough natural jaw bone to support an implant. As they heal, they fuse with your own bone. Then, later, the implant can be placed through the bone graft and your natural bone.
Why do you need bone grafts?
Simply put, you need bone grafts because, without them, the implants would not take hold in your jaw bone because it is too thin or weak to support them. There are a number of reasons why you may have thin jaw bones. Some patients are born this way. Others have suffered bone loss due to osteoporosis or another health condition. You may also need a bone graft if you lost a tooth and did not have it replaced promptly; when a tooth socket sits empty for too long, the bone starts to break down.
What does the surgery entail?
The bone graft procedure will be performed under general anesthesia or heavy sedation. Either way, you will be completely numb and will feel no pain during the procedure. Your dentist will make an incision to open up your gums, and will then place the new bone beneath them before stitching the gums back up again. After the surgery, you will be a bit sore and will need to eat soft foods for a while, but you should mostly be able to return to your normal routine within a few days.
How long do bone grafts have to heal before you can get implants?
You cannot have the implants put into place until the grafted bone has annealed itself to your natural bone. Your dentist will check up on you regularly and let you know when you are sufficiently healed and can have your implants inserted. Most patients are ready within 4 months though some need up to 9 months to heal.
If a dentist (such as Dr. Sudharani V Chary) tells you that you need bone grafts in order to be a candidate for implants, do not panic. Though this will add to the time it takes to get your implants, the procedure is rather simple and straight forward, and your beautiful teeth will still make it worthwhile in the end.