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Dental implants: New technique helps patients with fragile jawbones

Woman in lab coat holds a human jawbone

For patients who need dental implants, the process can seem especially daunting if they also need additional bone to support them. Previously this meant a separate surgery to acquire this bone through a graft from the patient’s jaw or hip and reposition it at the implant site.

Thanks to a clinical inspiration by Marianela Gonzalez, assistant professor of oral and maxillofacial surgery at Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry, patients now have an alternative.

The award-winning treatment idea was sparked through caring for a patient who had lower teeth so loose that extraction was required. Localized bone loss was to blame, and Gonzalez knew that to prepare the patient to receive dental implants, she would need to recreate ample bone to provide a firm anchor.

Gonzalez conceived a new use for a product called Sonic Weld membrane as a potential solution. This resorbable material originally was used by surgeons to repair cranial fractures in children who, because of future bone growth, needed something less permanent than titanium plates for fracture repair. Sonic Weld also had manufacturer-suggested uses inside the mouth, but none leading to the results Gonzalez desired. She had another idea.

Gonzalez attaches the membrane over the top of the gums to create a pocket of space over the area where bone is needed. She then fills the space with Infuse Bone Graft, a protein that binds with existing bone cells and attracts the cells to create bone. Because it can be reabsorbed into the tissue, Sonic Weld is an enticing alternative to methods that use titanium mesh, which require bone grafts and secondary surgeries to remove.

“By using SonicWeld membrane with the Infuse Bone Graft to create bone growth, we got excellent results, and we ultimately placed implants and crowns,” Gonzalez says.