Do I Really Need Bone Grafts to Get Dental Implants?

man with question about dental implants

I put off getting dental implants for a couple years because I needed to save up for them. Now that I have the cash saved, the dentist I saw says I need to have bone grafts too. It’s not a huge expense, but it does add to the cost. What I’m more questioning is that, if this is really necessary, why wasn’t I told I needed it when I first started getting estimates? Is this something new that doctors just started doing, something that this particular dentist does, or do I not really need it?



Dear Peter,

This isn’t something new, but it might be new to you now that time has passed since your teeth were lost.

Bone Loss Occurs When Teeth Are Lost

The human body is pretty miraculous in some ways. In an effort to keep vital parts functioning and be efficient, it routes nutrients—the building blocks of your body—to where they’re needed most. Your bones, in particular, are loaded with things like calcium and phosphate. It’s actually loss of these minerals that makes your teeth susceptible to decay. The interesting thing is, once your teeth are lost, it seems your body assumes you no longer need a thick jawbone. Little by little, it’ll start breaking down the components of your jawbone and send those nutrients elsewhere in your body. The process is referred to as “resorption” for this reason. You won’t lose your jawbone entirely, but it eventually results in what’s known as “facial collapse.” Your mouth will start to pucker inward some, making you look much older than you are.

Bone Needs to be Thick for Traditional Dental Implants to Work

Dental implants have long “roots” that mimic your natural tooth, so there needs to be substantial bone for them to anchor into. If you start treatment right away after teeth are lost, you can often get by without any special care. However, if you start years down the road, then you’ll usually have some degree of resorption happening. The only way to address this is through bone grafting.

You Can Explore Alternatives or Get a Second Opinion

If your dentist is recommending grafting, it’s probably because he’s already examined your bone and determined there’s an issue. It’s unlikely another dentist will feel differently, but you can always get a second opinion to be sure, so you can go into this with more confidence. However, it’s worth noting that there are other missing tooth replacements that don’t necessarily require the same degree of care and you may be a candidate for alternative options such as implant overdentures. Have a talk with your dentist to see what other procedures might be options for you if you don’t want to go through with the grafting. At the end of the day, it’s probably best to go through with the recommended treatment. Nothing about what you’ve mentioned sounds out of the ordinary.

This blog is sponsored by Dr. Steve Sirin, an Elgin dental implants provider.

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