Often in preparation for a dental implant, a bone graft is done to add bone back to the jaw where there is not enough to support an implant. The titanium screw used in dental implants needs to be completely surrounded by bone so it can heal and anchor the tooth to the jaw.
Just like not using your muscles can cause atrophy or shrinkage, if a tooth has been missing for quite some time then the jaw bone can shrink in size. How quickly and how much of the bone disappears varies from individual to individual. While you may or may not notice a difference in your tooth alignment and gum health, a trained dentist or periodontist can detect damage that may be happening under the gums’ surface.
Bone atrophy often occurs within the first few months to a year after a tooth has been missing. If an implant is not immediately inserted some bone may need to be grafted back to the jaw to increase the volume of bone to support the dental implant. Bone grafts can be needed for other reasons such as supporting a denture or providing a more natural gum anatomy around crown and bridges.
Check with your dentist about sources for bone grafts. To optimize your results, consult with a dentist, periodontist, or oral surgeon as soon as possible if you are missing a tooth or need to have a tooth removed.