Bone Augmentation For Dental Implants: What Is It, Why Is It Necessary And How Is It Done?

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If you have decided to replace your missing teeth with dental implants, it is essential to understand the role your jawbone plays in a successful implant. When the jawbone is unhealthy or has suffered erosion from a previous tooth extraction, gum disease or infection, you will need to have the bone built up in order to securely hold the implants. Bone augmentation, also known as bone grafting, is a procedure used by the dentist to build the jawbone.

What Exactly is a Bone Augmentation?

Bone augmentation is a technique used to increase the volume of eroded and/or missing bone. The bone augmentation allows your natural bone to blend with the bone that is grafted (harvesting), which makes it possible for the jawbone to have a sufficient amount of  bone to hold the dental implants. The augmentation procedure primarily depends on the type of material or bone that is being used to increase the volume of the jawbone. The augmentation must be completely healed before the implants can be installed and some augmentation procedures can take several months to completely heal.

Where Does the Bone Come From?

There are basically three different material options that can be used for a bone augmentation: human bone, animal bone or synthetic materials. There are four types of bone augmentation procedures that are used for dental implants:

  • Autogenous, which is a procedure that uses bone taken from your body. This procedure typically provides the best results, because natural bone is being used, so there is a greater chance of cell growth. The bone for this procedure is usually taken from the chin or the back part of the jaw. The procedure to remove bone from your chin  is done in the dentist's office. In rare situations, the bone may be removed from your hip bone. If the hip bone is used, you will need to be hospitalized to have the bone surgically removed.
  • Allograft is a procedure that uses either synthetic bone or a cadaver bone. Cadaver bones for grafting purposes are available through a bone bank. When a cadaver bone is used, the bone is first sterilized, then tested to ensure it is suitable for your body.
  • Alloplastic is a procedure that uses synthetic materials, such as calcium phosphate, for the bone formation. When synthetic materials are used, the goal is for the synthetic material to stimulate the body to form natural bone at the site where the dental implant will be installed.
  • Xenograft is a procedure that uses animal bones. The animal bones used for augmentation are usually cow bone. The bones are first sterilized, then processed to make the bone compatible with your body. The cow bone is basically used as a filler, because your body will gradually convert it into natural bone.

Once the bone augmentation is done, it typically takes several months for the grafted bone to join the natural bone. Your dentist will monitor the bone augmentation routinely to ensure it is healing correctly. After the bone has completely harvested, you can have the dental implant procedure done. This is usually a lengthy process; however, the end results will be new teeth that look and feel like your own natural teeth.  

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