Preparing Your Jaw For Dental Implants: What You Should Know About Bone Grafting

Dentist Articles

Before accepting a patient for dental implant surgery, one of the first things that the oral surgeon will look for is a strong jawbone.  Many people, after discovering their jawbone is too weak and they will need a bone graft, steer away from getting implants simply because they are too nervous about the procedure and don't know what to expect.  By learning more about bone grafting and what the procedure entails, you can move forward with confidence through the grafting procedure in preparation for your dental implants.

Understanding The Need For Bone Grafting

When you chew, your mouth puts a lot of pressure on your bone.  If your jawbone isn't strong enough, the dental implant will not hold in place or be properly supported.  

To avoid unsuccessful implantation surgeries, dentists want to make sure that you have a solid base, or home, for the new implant to reside.  Bone grafts are essential in helping your body to rebuild healthy, natural bone for your jaw.

Some of the factors that may contribute to your need for a bone graft include:

  • severe gum disease
  • a history of teeth development difficulties
  • wearing dentures for a long period of time
  • a severe injury to the face
  • spaces left open too long after teeth removal

Understanding The Bone Grafting Procedure

When adding bone to the jaw, there are three different types of bone that can be used including:

  • bone that has been removed from another part of your jaw or body
  • bone that is from a donor or cadaver 
  • bone that is from certain types of animals (this bone has been completely sterilized and only contains minerals from natural bone)

If you choose to use bone that is not from a part of your body, it will simply act as a placeholder.  Once your body recognizes the bone graft, over time, it will absorb and replace it with your native bone.  

Once you and your dentist select which type of bone you would prefer, the surgeon will apply a local anesthetic to the area.  If you are particularly nervous or anxious about the procedure, he or she may decide to sedate you intravenously as well.  If the bone graft is minor, you may be able to have your dental implant surgery completed the same day; however, in most cases you will need to wait for the bone graft to heal and fuse with the existing bone before getting dental implants.

Understanding The Recovery Process

Although your initial recovery may only take about 2-3 weeks, it can take between 4-9 months for the bone graft to be completely healed and ready for a dental implant.  Although the recovery process can be lengthy, by properly taking care of your mouth and body during the entire recovery process, you can ensure a more speedy and comfortable transition.

Some completely normal things that you might experience during the first couple of days of your recovery include:

  • discovering small granules of bone in your mouth
  • swelling around your mouth, eyes, cheeks, and side of your face
  • bleeding (your doctor can tell you how much bleeding is normal for the graft that you have had completed)

As far as pain management goes, your doctor should give you antibiotics as well as an antibacterial mouthwash which will assist in preventing infections.  During these crucial first few days of the healing process, you will need to:

  • rinse with salt water after meals to keep your mouth clean (be sure to rinse gently and not excessively)
  • brush your teeth daily (while steering clear of the surgical site)
  • keep unnecessary pressure off of the area that is healing (your surgeon may give you a gauze pad to use and will give you specific instructions for applying the pad and how to change it)
  • avoid smoking and intense exercise
  • keep the area clean and dry as much as possible
  • avoid hot and crunchy foods (try to stick to liquids for the first couple of days and then slowly incorporate solid foods back into your diet)

By doing these things, you can speed up recovery, avoid dislodging any bone particles, and prevent infection from entering the surgical site.  Of course, learning that you need to have a bone graft in order to get dental implants can be scary at first, but by learning more about what you should expect from this procedure, you can move forward with less anxiety and more confidence. For more information, talk to an experienced dentist like Dale D. Lentz DDS


4 June 2015