Bone Grafting for Implants

Do I have enough bone for dental implants?

After tooth extraction, if the walls of the socket are very thick, they may fill in naturally with bone in 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. At the time of a tooth extraction, the doctor may recommend the placement of a bone graft in order to fill the empty socket. This is referred to as a socket preservation. This step maintains the width and volume of bone you will need for implant placement several months later and make the outcome more predictable.

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

If you are missing a tooth or a tooth was removed many years ago, there may be inadequate bone for placement of an implant. Your bony ridge may be extremely thin. In this case, a bone graft can be placed next to the thin bone and allowed to heal for up to four months. After the graft has fused to your pre-existing bone, the ridge will be re-entered and the implant placed. Bone grafting can usually be done as an in-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 low and extend into the tooth-bearing areas. This often occurs when teeth in the back of the upper jaw have been removed many years ago and the amount of bone available for implant placement is limited. A sinus grafting procedure is then required. It is most often performed in the office with local anesthesia and perhaps sedation. During this procedure, the membrane that lines the sinus is located and elevated. Bone is then added to restore the bone height and ensure that dental implants of an adequate length can be placed. This procedure can sometimes be performed at the time of implant placement.