Bone Grafting for Implants 

After tooth extraction, if the walls of the socket are thick, they will fill naturally with bone in about three months. However, when the walls of your socket are very thin, the healing will not be as predictable. In these situations, a bone graft is often placed at the time of tooth extraction to help fill the empty socket. This step will maintain the width and volume of bone you will need for implant placement several months later.

Illustrated example of a jaw with inadequate front bone structure to support an implant
1. Inadequate Bone
Upper side jaw illustration: Bone graft material placed to increase the bone structure
2. Graft Material Placed
Upper side jaw illustration: Two front dental implants placed after bone grafting
3. Implants Placed

There may also be inadequate bone for implant placement if your tooth was removed years ago.  In this case, a bone graft will be placed next to the thin ridge and allowed to heal for up to six months. After the graft has fused to your pre-existing bone, the ridge will thick enough for the implant to be placed. Bone grafting is generally a comfortable procedure. Many different bone-grafting materials are available, including your own bone.

Upper side jaw illustration: A jaw lacking enough bone in the back of the mouth for a dental implant
1. Inadequate Bone
Upper side jaw illustration: A dental implant after adding jaw structure with bone grafting
2. Graft Material and Implant Placed

You may also need bone grafting if the sinus cavities in your upper jaw are very large, or very low, and extend into the tooth-bearing areas. An X-ray will show if the amount of bone available for implant placement is limited. A “sinus grafting procedure” may be required. Most often, it is performed in the office under local anesthesia or perhaps sedation. During this procedure, the membrane that lines the sinus will be elevated, and bone will be added to restore the bone height and ensure that dental implants of adequate length can be placed. This procedure is usually performed at the time of implant placement.