Mini Dental Implants and Your Jawbone: When You'd Rather Avoid Bone Grafting

28 January 2022
 Categories: Dentist, Blog


There are different types of dental implants, in varying sizes. A standard endosteal implant is 13 millimeters in length (or just over half an inch), with a diameter ranging from 3.75 millimeters to 4.1 millimeters (or approximately 0.15 inches to 0.16 inches). An implant of this size provides sufficient stability for any tooth in your dental arch that might need to be replaced, but it relies upon sufficient bone mass in the jaw to stabilize it. When there isn't enough bone mass, you'll usually need bone grafting. But this can depend on which tooth is being replaced.

Enough Bone

If you need to replace a molar, an endosteal implant can be ideal. But it's only ideal when there's enough bone. This can be a puzzling requirement, because it's not as though your jaw bone has mysteriously vanished. However, when a tooth is lost, the bone no longer receives ongoing stimulation caused by bite pressure experienced by the tooth.

Loss of Density

Without this ongoing bite pressure, your body realizes that the tooth is now gone. The calcium and other nutrients that your jawbone uses to maintain its density are diverted elsewhere, and the jawbone directly beneath the empty dental socket loses some of that density. This mass must be replaced to provide a sturdy foundation for the implant. Bone grafting (applying a small amount of bone tissue to the site) will achieve this, and it can be an essential part of the implant process for many patients, and for many teeth—such as the previously mentioned molar.

Bite Force

Molars are posterior teeth (towards the rear of your mouth), and when an implant is placed in this location, there must be sufficient bone mass to support it, largely due to the significant amount of bite force that these teeth experience. But it can be a different story if you need to replace an anterior tooth (towards the front of your mouth) such as an incisor or a canine tooth.

Mini Implants

The part of your jaw that holds your anterior teeth will similarly lose density when a tooth is lost. However, the nature of these teeth means you may be able to avoid bone grafting by the use of a mini implant, since anterior teeth are used for gripping and tearing food, as opposed to chewing it. Mini implants may be the same length as a standard endosteal implant, but have a smaller diameter. This means that less bone is required to stabilize the implant, ideally allowing you to avoid the need for bone grafting. 

It's true that many patients will need bone grafting as part of their dental implant procedure. But it may prove to be unnecessary if you're replacing an anterior tooth, courtesy of mini implants. Talk to your dentist about your options for dental implants.