A dental implant is an excellent tooth-replacement option. Unlike dentures and dental bridges, a dental implant replaces the missing tooth from root to cusp. The root portion is physically drilled into the jawbone. This offers the entire structure superior support and gives your jawbone the connection it requires to continue remodeling properly. However, your jawbone and gums do have to be healthy enough to sustain the implant. Let’s look at how to qualify for dental implants.
How to Qualify for Dental Implants?
Those with a weakened or damaged jaw will not initially qualify. Luckily, your OC Dental Specialist may be able to help you by performing a graft procedure.
When Is a Graft Necessary?
Several conditions could make a graft necessary. Receding gums or a softened jawbone are chief among them. It could happen to anyone, but you are more likely to develop these conditions if you have:
- Gum Disease
- A History of Smoking
- A History of Poor Oral Healthcare
You may also need a graft if the tooth has been missing for an extended period of time. Without a tooth in place that section of jawbone doesn’t receive the signal to remodel itself whenever you chew. Remodeling is important because it describes the replacement of old bone with new bone. That is how your jaw stays strong.
Your dentist will visually evaluate your gums and take x-rays of your jawbone to ascertain their current condition. With any luck, both will be in good enough condition to make a dental implant possible without any additional procedures. However, if your dentist is concerned about your current oral health, you will need to have those issues resolved before moving forward with the procedure.
How Does a Graft Work?
A bone graft essentially acts as a form of jawbone augmentation. When you come in for your procedure, your oral surgeon will administer a local anesthetic to ensure that you won’t experience any pain. From there your dentist will cut a small flap out on the gum line near the affected section of the jaw. If there is bone that has been damaged by periodontal disease, then this tissue is carefully removed.
Once the exposed segment of bone is prepped for the graft, your surgeon will then fill the damaged area with grafting material. This material is typically synthetic, but it is designed to replicate bone with the intention of being fully incorporated into the jawbone over time. We then place a small patch over the graft to hold everything in place. As a final step, your surgeon will replace the gum flap.
It can take several months, but the slight damage to the jawbone will actually encourage it to remodel again. As new bone tissue is introduced, the graft will act as the foundation for new growth. By the time you end up ready to move on with your dental implant procedure, the graft should completely integrate into a much healthier jawbone.
How Effective Are Grafts?
A bone graft can seem like a lot, especially with the lengthy healing process necessary before having your dental implant placed. However, scientific evidence suggests that a graft may be worth the extra time. In a study following the placement of 223 dental implants after grafts, nearly 99% of all the implants were still in good condition five years later. Grafts clearly work, and they’re helping people to maintain their oral health after losing a tooth.
By contrast, if you choose dentures or a dental bridge instead, you could experience further bone loss. Essentially, dental implants and dental bridges supported by dental implants are the best long-term solution. You may just need a little more care before you can have the procedure safely.