If you need dental implants but doesn't have adequate bone on which to anchor the implants, then your existing bone has to be enhanced first. The enhancement process is known as bone augmentation, and here are three major ways of doing it:
Lifting the Sinus
The sinuses are the air cavities in the skull. When it comes to bone augmentation, the sinuses of interest are the maxillary sinuses, which are the air cavities located below the cheeks and above the teeth on either side of the jaw.
A sinus lift is needed when the dentist needs to insert dental implants on missing back teeth – the molars and premolars. These teeth are difficult to replace because the sinuses below them sometimes enlarge and reduce the quantity of bone on which the implants can be anchored. If you have such a condition, the dentist has to build the bone below the sinuses; "lifting" them up so that the implants can be inserted.
In this form of bone augmentation, the dentist builds up your depleted jawbone using natural human bone or artificially manufactured bone. The natural human bone can be harvested from another part of your body or from another person's body. The more bone has to be grafted the longer the surgery will be, this will also influence the length of the post-operative recovery time. In most cases, however, bone graft patients are able to heal after only a few months. If you only need a small bone graft, it may be possible to graft the bone and insert the implant at the same time. Usually, however, you have to wait for the graft site to heal before getting the implant.
Modifying or Expanding the Ridge
In the case of ridge expansion, there is no introduction of extra bone material, either natural or artificial. It is the existing bone material that is modified or expanded to accommodate the dental implant. It can be used to increase the thickness or height of the existing jawbone. Note that inadequate jawbone width is just as important as inadequate depth. In this case, the thin bony ridge of the jaw is split using dental instruments. The split bones are then held apart by a suitable material to give adequate room for the insertion of the implant material.
The dentist will explain to you the pros and cons of all these processes before the treatment. The dentist will also explain to you which treatment best suits your case. Listen and follow the dentist's advice on post-operative care to hasten your healing process.