Prior to implant insertion, a surgeon must verify that the jaw bone is strong enough to hold implants. In some cases, the bone is weakened by infection or part of it could be missing altogether because of a tooth extraction. If the bone graft surgery is deemed necessary, the doctor would open the gum tissue and place the graft into the bone areas requiring repairs (see Step 1). Once the graft is applied, the bone must be allowed to heal or regenerate. The gradual process of regeneration is depicted Step 2: elements of the graft promote the growth of the jaw bone and integrate into it. With time, the new bone growth is indistinguishable from the original bone (see Step 3).
Healing time will vary upon overall health of the patient as well as his or her oral hygiene habits. For instance, smoking has been linked to bone graft failure. However, the average time for an extraction site to heal and be ready for implant placement is about 6 weeks. After the healing is complete, the graft will become the actual bone with densities appropriate for implant placement. Sometimes additional steps and costs are needed to prepare an area of the jaw for placement of dental implants. These could include:
- Alveolar ridge augmentation: Grafting bone from other regions of the body to allow more surface area and increased amount of bone for superior implant stability and future success of the implant.
- Sinus lift: Specifically done on the upper back teeth. This procedure increases the amount of bone where the implant can be safely placed and provide proper support.