Many times due to progressive disease, infection or trauma, bone and soft tissue are lost in areas around the teeth. Bone resorption, or deterioration, occurs naturally when teeth are lost or removed unless dental implants are placed to preserve the bone.
Fortunately for those patients who have lost bone, it is possible to augment or replace the bone with grafting techniques and successfully place implants. And any defects in the bone in the front of the mouth can be corrected to create the proper facial contours and tissue support necessary to achieve optimal esthetic results.
If small defects are present in the desired implant location, a bone graft with either real or synthetic bone is used to fill in the defects. Since gum tissue grows faster than bone and will in essence invade the bone graft, causing it to shrink, a thin collagen membrane is used to cover the graft to prevent the gum tissue from growing into the area. Sometimes the bone graft can be accomplished at the same time as implant placement. This type of graft takes the same time to heal as it takes for the bone to remodel after the implants have been placed.
If there is a substantial amount of bone loss, which prevents the placement of dental implants, an actual block of bone can be removed from the chin or behind the lower back teeth and transplanted to the area in need. These “blocks” of bone are held in place using small titanium screws to allow for healing. They will often be covered with a thin collagen membrane to aid the healing process. These grafts typically require four to six months to heal and form new bone identical to the shape of the transplanted block. Implants can then be placed securely in this bone. It will usually take another three to four months for the bone to remodel around the implants.