Bone Grafting For Dental Implants: What It Is And How You Can Take Care Of Your Graft

Posted on: 12 January 2015

For individuals missing teeth, dental implants are the best option for maintaining the function and appearance of natural teeth. Some of these individuals require bone augmentation in their jaw before dental implants can be expected to succeed. Bone augmentation, also called bone grafting, is a common procedure that is performed by oral surgeons or specialists in restorative dentistry. However, patients should understand that bone grafts require extra care after the procedure is performed, and the failure or success of a graft can be dependent upon their diligence. Below is more information about bone grafts and what you need to do to ensure good results for the long-term:

A primer for dental bone grafting

Dental bone grafts are a fairly simple procedure at their core, as the goal is to fill the space where the missing tooth was formerly rooted. This space will gradually grow larger over time as the jawbone slowly recedes. That's why it's important to perform a bone graft as soon as possible after a tooth extraction; otherwise, it means a larger implant will be needed to fill the expanding space.

The dentist or oral surgeon at a place like The Jacksonville Center for Prosthodontics and Implant Dentistry begins by giving the patient an injection of a local anesthetic at the site of the missing tooth. If the patient's gums have grown over the site, the gums are carefully cut open to permit access to the bone beneath. The doctor then prepares the site of the graft by drilling, shaping and cleaning the bone to make it suitable for the implant.

In cases involving a small area, such as a single missing tooth, the implant consists of specially-prepared, sterile bone "granules" that come from a human donor or cow bones. These granules are inserted into the empty cavity prepared by the doctor, and they are then covered with a membrane that is sutured in place.

If the area of missing bone is large, then the doctor will graft a section of bone taken from the patient in another location in their body or use a donor bone, if necessary. In cases where the graft is to be performed on the upper jaw near the back of the mouth, the doctor will gently push the patient's sinuses upward, and fill the space with the section of bone. This provides additional room for the implant to be added in the future without affecting the sinuses.

How to care for a bone graft

Once the graft is implanted by the dentist or surgeon, it is critical that it be provided with an opportunity to integrate into the surrounding bone. Infection is a prime enemy of bone graft success, and prevention is the key to keeping infection at bay. Here are some things you can do to protect the new graft:

  • Use chlorhexadine mouthwash on a daily basis – chlorhexadine will kill the microorganisms capable of infiltrating the area surrounding the bone graft. Avoid using alcohol-based mouthwash as it will dry out the sensitive tissues near the graft.

  • Wear a nighttime mouth guard – your doctor can provide you with an appropriate mouth guard to wear while you sleep. Teeth grinding or sucking can weaken the graft's connection with the tissues and surrounding bone.

  • Don't smoke or drink alcoholic beverages– smoking should be avoided for at least a couple of weeks after your bone graft. As with mouthwashes, alcoholic drinks can cause drying and irritation.

  • Use warm saltwater to rinse your mouth – if you experience pain in the area surrounding the graft, using a saltwater rinse can be effective. Mix one tablespoon in a glass of warm tap water, and gently swish it in your mouth for twenty to thirty seconds.

  • Get appropriate follow-up care - it is important that you don't neglect visiting your dental care professional after having the graft procedure. Their care is essential in avoiding infection and subsequent failure of the graft. In addition, they will be able to evaluate your progress, and provide you with an estimate of when the implant surgery can take place.