Dental Implants And Bone Grafting - Understanding What A Block Graft Is And When It Is Needed

If you have lost one or several teeth, then a dental implant from a dentist like Dale D. Lentz DDS may be a great choice for you. However, you may have very little bone tissue along the jaw where the device needs to be placed. When this happens, you will likely need a bone graft. A simple cow bone graft can be used or your oral surgeon can try to stimulate the formation of your own bone tissue. These simple techniques cannot be used in some cases though, and something called a block bone graft will be needed. If your dentist has mentioned that a block graft is required, then keep reading to understand the circumstances that may lead to the need for substantial bone graft material and how the procedure will occur.

When is a Block Graft Needed?

A block graft or a large bone graft that is surgically placed along the jaw is needed if there is significant bone loss along the jawbone. This may occur if your tooth was lost or extracted many years ago and the gums were left to heal without any attention to the jawbone. When this happens, the hole or open socket opening will usually smooth out and the gums will settle in place. Bone matter may even be lost along the sides of the socket area if pressure is placed on the gums above. This will result in the need for a big graft, instead of a basic and much smaller socket graft.

You may also need a larger graft if you have had a serious case of gingivitis or an osteoporosis condition where much of the bone has worn away. When this happens, the jawbone may be too thin for a dental implant and bulk will need to be added. Also, if your oral surgeon is concerned about future bone loss, then a much more substantial graft will be able to hold the dental implant root even if some of the tissue is worn away. 

Areas where dental trauma caused a tooth to be knocked out of the jaw and the socket to be significantly damaged may result in the need for a bigger graft, and this is also true if an abscess or infection has caused bone necrosis or osteonecrosis in the past. When this happens a surgical procedure is needed to remove the dead bone from the jaw, and the bone will not grow back in the region. Also, instances where adult teeth never formed in the jaw may require block grafts, because this also means that the jawbone has likely not formed fully either in the region in a way that implant teeth can be supported.

What happens During a Block Graft?

During a block bone graft, healthy and living bone tissue is likely to be harvested from your own body. This may sound scary, but the tissues are taken from an area where the bone is not necessarily needed. The bone may be taken from the chin area where the jaw bone is quite thick and extends far beyond where the tooth sockets are placed. If for some reason this is not ideal, like in the case where the jaw is weak, then bone can be taken from the tip of your pelvic bone. This bone material is screwed into place along your jaw where the implant will be placed. Sometimes this requires a small space or openings to be created in the jaw, since the bone graft will be in the form of a block.

To help the new bone attach to the jaw, a collagen material is placed over the area. The gum tissues are then stitched over the top and the area is left to heal. It can take several months for the bone to fully attach to the jaw. This is one reason why the grafting procedure will likely be performed four months or so before your main dental implant operation.