Dental ImplantsDental implant treatment often requires more than one surgical procedure. The nature of implants – and how they interact with your mouth – demands adequate quality and density of soft and hard tissue in the area that will hold the device.

Where this is lacking, a preparatory procedure – typically grafting – may be necessary to augment the volume of bone and/or gum tissue. This is known as dental implant site development, and it is key to the success of implant treatment in many cases.

Bone Grafting in Dental Implant Site Development

If you have had a tooth missing for some time, the bone structure that supported it can begin to deteriorate because it is receiving no stimulation or exercise.

When an implant – a synthetic tooth root – is inserted, it needs to fuse to the bone in the jaw to provide a solid anchor for an artificial tooth. In cases of insufficient quality bone, a graft may be necessary. The chewing action places great pressure on your jaw bone, and it has to be able to support the implant properly.

The bone graft process entails bone being removed from another part of your mouth or another area of your body and grafted into place. Another option is the use of artificial bone. It can take several months for enough new bone to develop to support the implant.

The condition of your jaw bone will dictate the extent of grafting required. In some cases, where only a minor graft is necessary, it can be performed at the same time as implant surgery.

Another cause of jaw bone loss is an infection from a decayed tooth. In these cases, various bone grafting options are available. They can typically be carried out at the same time the tooth is extracted, ahead of fitting a dental implant at a later date.

Sinus Augmentation

If you have lost a lot of bone or your sinuses are too close together, a bone grafting procedure called a sinus augmentation – or sinus lift – may be required to consolidate bone mass in the upper jaw as part of dental implant site development.

Quantity and quality of bone are particularly important for implants in the back of the upper jaw, which is close to the sinus floor. A sinus lift raises the sinus floor to enable a bone graft prior to placement of an implant.

A sinus augmentation is often performed for implant patients who have:

  • Large sinuses.
  • Small jaws.
  • Deteriorated upper jaw.
  • Bone loss through gum disease (periodontitis) or cancer.

Gum Grafting in Dental Implant Site Development

Besides bone loss, teeth that have been missing for some time can cause deterioration of the gums. This may call for a soft tissue graft to repair the damaged area ahead of your implant procedure.

Soft Tissue Ridge Augmentation

In cases of thinning of the gums, a procedure called soft tissue ridge augmentation can be carried out to bulk up the implant site, usually with thick tissue taken from the palate (roof of the mouth) or donor tissue. The tissue is placed between the gum and bone to plump up the area. The procedure is similar to a gingival graft to treat patients with receding gums.

Gingival Grafts for Receding Gums

Gum recession – also called gingival recession – affects up to 12 percent of adults, often going unnoticed until it becomes a serious issue. The most common cause of receding gums is periodontitis, brought about by an accumulation of bacterial plaque and tartar.

Symptoms of gum recession include:

  • Teeth appearing to be longer.
  • Persistent bad breath (halitosis).
  • Bleeding when brushing or flossing.
  • Teeth that become over-sensitive to heat or cold.
  • Puffy gum tissue.
  • Cavities at the gum line.

If your gums have receded significantly, you may need a gingival graft – also known as periodontal plastic surgery or simply a gum graft – before implants can be inserted.

There are three types of gum graft:

Connective tissue graft. The most common procedure, this entails taking connective tissue from the palate and transplanting it into the gum. A connective tissue graft can also be done with material from a tissue bank, which usually causes less post-operative discomfort.

Free gingival graft. Similar to a connective tissue graft, this procedure also involves taking tissue from the roof of the mouth. It’s often used in cases where patients have naturally thin gums.

Pedicle graft. Rather than taking tissue from the palate, a pedicle graft entails the use of tissue from the gum itself, near the implant site.

Do I Need Dental Implant Site Development?

Many middle-age adults in the U.S. have lost at least one tooth through gum disease, decay or injury.

According to the American Academy of Implant Dentistry (AAID), more than 35 million people in the U.S. are missing all their lower or upper teeth, or both, and the number of patients opting for dental implants is growing fast.

In terms of appearance and functionality, state-of-the-art implants hold many advantages over more conventional methods of replacing a single tooth, several teeth or all the teeth.

Implants can restore your smile and confidence, and enable you to eat your favorite foods again while maintaining the structural integrity of your jaw and giving you a bite power much stronger than conventional dentures.

Implants also look and feel just like your original teeth, provide stability for your surrounding natural teeth, and can last for decades if you take care of them properly.

However, for implants to be effective, the jaw bone and gum tissue must be healthy and strong, with adequate volumes of hard and soft tissue, but in many instances, the implant site is compromised by poor quality or density of tissue.

These cases entail preparatory procedures to augment the tissue volume before an implant can be placed. These dental implant site development procedures avoid the risk of:

  • Longer treatment time.
  • Greater risk of complications.
  • Higher costs.

If you think you may need dental implant site development, talk to an implant dentist experienced in procedures such as sinus augmentation and bone grafting.