4 Things You Need To Know About Jawbone Grafts

More than 178 million Americans are missing at least one tooth, and if you're one of them, you may have considered dental implants. Dental implants look and feel like natural teeth, so they're the perfect way to replace missing ones. However, if you've been missing teeth for a while, you may need to have jawbone grafts done before you can get dental implants. Here's what you need to know. 

Why are jawbone grafts required?

The roots of your natural teeth are connected to your jawbone. These roots do more than just support your teeth; they also stimulate the bone directly beneath them, which helps to keep the bone healthy and strong. Your missing tooth doesn't have any roots, and over time, this causes the bone to wear away and re-absorb into your body. 

The jawbone atophies faster than you might expect. In the first year after losing a tooth you can expect to lose about 25% of your jawbone's width. In the next few years, the jawbone will also start to lose height. Many people don't have enough jawbone left to support a dental implant by the time they decide to replace a missing tooth.

How are jawbone grafts done?

Jawbone grafting is a routine surgery and is usually done as an out-patient procedure. You will receive local anesthesia for the procedure, so you'll be awake, but you won't feel any pain. Some dentists also use sedatives to help their patients relax. 

The procedure is very simple. First, your gums will be cut open to expose your jawbone. Next, the dentist will attach your new bone to your existing, atrophied jawbone, and then you will be sewn up. 

The bone for the grafts will usually be taken from somewhere else on your body. This bone often comes from somewhere else inside your mouth, like behind your molars, but it can sometimes come from other parts of your body, like your hip. The dentist can also use bone tissue from animals or cadavers.

Can dental implants be placed immediately?

Sometimes, dental implants can be placed immediately after jawbone grafting is performed. If your bone graft was small, this may be possible. Larger bone grafts need more time to heal. 

You may need to wait as long as nine months before you can get a dental implant. The transplanted bone needs time to grow and become firmly attached to your existing bone. Once your grafted bone is ready for a dental implant, you need to get the procedure done right away. If you wait too long, the process of jawbone atrophy will start over again. 

Is the healing process painful?

The healing process after a jawbone graft takes a long time, but fortunately, you won't be in pain for very long. The graft area will be painful and the side of your face will be swollen for the first few days after the surgery. Your dentist will give you a prescription for painkillers and ice will help with the swelling. 

You will need to stick to liquids and soft foods at first but can resume your normal diet as soon as you can bite and chew without pain. 

About a week after your surgery, you will have a follow-up appointment with your dentist. You should be feeling much better at this point, but if you're not, tell your dentist.

Dental implants are an excellent way to replace missing teeth, but sometimes, other procedures need to be done first. If your tooth has been missing for years, you may need to get a jawbone graft before the implant can be placed. Make an appointment with your dentist right away to get more info