Dental implants are typically placed in the alveolar ridge, which is a thick, dense part of your jaw. Sometimes it's not thick enough to support the implant, and bone grafting is required as part of the dental implant procedure. If the implant is to be placed in your upper jaw, there's a technique that allows you to bypass the inconvenience of bone grafting.
Grafting may be unavoidable when you've been missing a tooth for quite some time. If a tooth has been absent for approximately 12 months, some 50% of the alveolar's bone width has been lost via bone resorption. This is when bone matter (which is no longer needed to support the pressure exerted on the tooth) is absorbed back into the body. This is why grafting can be mandatory—a supplemental procedure to graft bone material (generally synthetic) onto the jaw. Once this integrates, the implant can be placed.
Artificial Tooth Root
The implant isn't an artificial tooth. It's a small piece of titanium that acts as an artificial tooth root, which the tooth (called a dental crown) attached after the implant has healed. When bone grafting is mandatory, two periods of healing are required (after grafting, and then after implant placement). However, there's a way around this if the implant is to be placed in your upper jaw.
Your zygoma, or cheekbone, is adjacent to your upper jaw. This is a strong, thick bone, and its density is unaffected by any tooth loss as it's not connected to the oral cavity. A zygomatic implant is an extended piece of titanium that supports a dental crown in the same way as a standard single-tooth implant placed in your alveolar ridge.
A Slight Angle
The zygomatic implant is inserted into your gums and then angles slightly to the side until its tip becomes embedded in your zygoma. The density of your cheekbone then offers the required stability for the implant's crown to function as a tooth—with the cheekbone, upper jawbone, and the implant itself being able to comfortably withstand all the compressive bite pressure that a natural tooth ordinarily would.
From your perspective, the surgery (inpatient, performed under local anesthetic) remains the same. There's nothing more intensive than if you were receiving a standard single-tooth implant in your alveolar ridge. Your cheekbone may be tender during the healing period, but this varies and shouldn't be overt.
An upper jaw dental implant can in fact be a combination jaw and cheekbone implant, without the need to undergo any bone grafting beforehand.
Contact a local dentist to learn whether a dental implant procedure is right for you.