Your first port of call will be to question your dental implantologist further about their reasons for wanting to do a bone graft. Your second port of call is to read all the information you can about bone grafting and dental implants.
What is a bone graft?
A bone graft is also known as bone augmentation, which is the process bone type materials are added to your own bone, in order to make your bone larger. In the case of dental implants, the bone that is to have bone grafting done on is your jawbone. Bone augmentation uses one of four types of materials:
1. bone from another part of your own body, such as your chin or hip bone
2. bone from a cadaver, which has been freeze dried and sterilised
3. bone from an animal, such as a cow, which has also been sterilised
4. a man-made type substance, such as bone morphogenetic protein, which stimulates some cells in your body to turn into bone cells
Why do I need a graft?
Your dental implantologist will have recommended that you have a graft in order to ensure that your dental implant has the most chance at being successful. This is because your jawbone may be too short or too narrow for a dental implant to be inserted. A graft will make your jawbone taller and or wider so that an implant will fit.
What happens during bone grafting?
The procedure of grafting will depend on which type of bone or material is being attached to your jawbone. If the bone is from your chin, then maybe only one surgical procedure is required. If it is from your hip bone, then a hospital visit and a general anaesthetic would be needed. Most commonly a piece of bone is taken from your chin, where a local anaesthetic is given and a cut is made inside your mouth below your lower teeth. Then a piece of bone is removed and the area stitched up. The bone is then inserted through a cut which exposes your jawbone and the bone piece is fixed in the area that it is needed with titanium screws to the jawbone. Six to nine months are needed to heal this area before the implant can be placed. This will ensure that the jawbone is strong enough to hold the implant, as well as strong enough for the implant to be used by you!
Do grafts actually work? Grafts have a very high success rate, especially if you use your own bone. When you have a graft, it is not like having an organ transplant – there is no chance of rejection. However some grafts do fail, requiring another graft to complete the implant. Some patients who smoke, drink or have some medical conditions are more likely to have a failed bone graft.