Bone grafts are crystal-like bone substitute particles that assist your body in growing its own bone. Bone grafts are commonly used to help preserve tooth extraction sockets for future implant placement. Note that once we lose teeth, our jawbone continues to shrink and resorb continuously. Thus, the longer you’ve been without a tooth, the more likely you are to require a bone graft prior to or in conjunction with dental implant placement. For implants to succeed, they must be placed in solid bone. Oftentimes, the ideal spot for placing an implant lacks enough bone to fully secure the implant in place. In these situations, your dentist may choose to add bone graft to help stabilize your implant and give it the best chance to succeed.
There are several different types of bone grafts. Synthetic bone grafts, such as Calcium Apatite, are used to fill in smaller voids. Larger defects typically require the use of cadaver, bovine or xenograft (pig) bone. The largest bony defects require a donor site from another region of your own body, known as autogenous bone graft. Regardless of the source of the bone graft, your body resorbs and replaces the graft with your own bone over the course of the ensuing several months. Essentially, the bone graft only acts as a space holder to permit your bone to grow and lock the implant securely in place.
A sinus lift or graft is often needed when placing dental implants in the upper posterior region (for those of you with a knowledge of teeth numbers, teeth #2, 3, 4, 13, 14 and 15 are most likely to require a sinus lift). These areas typically have insufficient bone to anchor implants in place since they are adjacent to our maxillary sinuses. Additionally, the bone in this region is soft and porous which makes it even harder to place implants in the region.
There are two methods to grow the extra bone needed next to your sinuses, either a sinus lift or a lateral wall sinus graft.
Sinus Lift - If there is a medium amount of bone next to your sinuses, between 5 to 8 millimeters, then your dentist can push the sinus up and insert the implant at the same time. This procedure is known as a sinus lift and pushes the sinus far up enough to create room for implant placement.
Sinus Graft – If there is less than 5 millimeters of bone, a sinus lift will not yield enough bone to successfully place an implant. These cases require a procedure referred to as a lateral wall sinus graft. A sinus graft surgery is a bit more involving and is typically recommended for placing multiple dental implants.
Both sinus lift and sinus graft procedures yield excellent results and these implants last a lifetime when done the correct way. But be very careful, as shortcuts don’t work here. If you choose to forgo proper treatment to save money, your implants will fail, and you must redo treatment at higher risks and higher costs. It is wiser to not place implants altogether instead of placing implants recklessly without addressing the sinus position and condition first.