Your first visit to an oral and maxillofacial surgeon usually consists of an oral exam, complete with X-rays and digital imaging. During this visit, your oral surgeon will explain your options for anesthesia and an estimated cost of your procedure based on the number and type of implants, anesthesia type, and any other procedures that may be necessary.
Occasionally, the portion of the jawbone located near missing teeth may atrophy and lack the necessary structure to support the placement of a dental implant. Bone grafting is a procedure that takes healthy bone from elsewhere in the body or from a cadaver and grafts it at the affected bone site. The grafted bone will then heal and fuse with the jawbone, allowing for a strong support structure for the implant post.
Teeth often require removal when they are infected or damaged to the point where they cannot be repaired. When this happens, the associated decay or trauma can also affect the surrounding bone structure in the “socket” where the tooth was removed. The result can sometimes include jaw deformities like tissue collapse, where the cheek or gum may fall inward, creating a visible dent. The affected bone can also be too weak to support restorative dental procedures.
Socket preservation procedures take existing bone or a synthetic substitute to fill the socket and then use gum tissue or a growth-promoting protein to encourage the gums to grow around the new structure. The socket then heals, eliminating shrinkage and collapse while providing a stable support structure for any potential reconstructive work in the years to come.
The alveolar ridge is the bone surrounding the roots of the teeth. When a tooth is removed, the socket usually naturally fills itself in with bone and gum tissue. Occasionally, however, the resulting socket creates a recess in the ridge. Ridge augmentation is a procedure to rebuild the natural curvature of this bone. It can be done for aesthetic reasons or to rebuild the bone mass needed to support a dental implant.
Ridge augmentation is typically performed by securing bone graft material at the site of bone loss and encouraging healing by suturing the gums over the exposed graft. A space-maintaining product may be used to regulate the height and width of space created. After the socket has healed, it can be prepared for dental implant placement.
Your maxillary sinuses are air-filled spaces behind your cheeks and above your upper teeth. There is often just a thin wall of bone separating the roof of your mouth and this sinus space. The success of a dental implant often depends on the amount and quality of the bone that can support a dental implant post, meaning that it may not be possible to place an implant to replace a missing upper tooth. A sinus lift is a type of bone grafting procedure that seeks to grow more healthy bone in the space between your sinus and your mouth to accommodate an implant.
Only your oral and maxillofacial surgeon can tell you if treatment is needed, but a sinus lift can be effective for patients who:
- Are missing multiple upper molars.
- Lack robust bone mass in the back of their jaw.
- Have lost multiple teeth due to congenital birth defects or disease.
- Require supporting structures in the upper jaw to support dental implants.
A sinus lift is most often performed by making a small incision in the gum and bone near the molar region of the top of your jaw and inserting bone graft material — this usually comes from your own body or a cadaver, or it is a synthetic material. The membrane lining the sinus is pushed upward to accommodate the new graft (hence the name of the procedure), and the incision is then closed with sutures. After a few months, the grafted material is usually fused with the existing bone, creating a strong enough structure to support a dental implant.