Bone Grafting

Do you think of bone as a hard, rigid material that never changes? In fact, bone remodels itself all the time: Your body is constantly depositing new bone cells and removing old ones. In the case of the bone that supports your teeth, this process can be helpful or harmful. For example, the jawbone’s adaptability allows an orthodontist to move teeth into a better position with braces. But in the case of losing a tooth as an adult, the bone changes that result can have serious consequences.

When teeth are lost, the bone that used to surround them begins to melt away or “resorb.” Tooth-supporting bone can also be lost when you have periodontal (gum) disease. If you lose enough teeth and bone, your facial features will sag, giving you a more aged appearance; it can also complicate treatment to replace your missing teeth. Fortunately, with modern bone grafting techniques, the bone that has been lost can be built up again. This can benefit both your health and appearance by strengthening your jawbone, allowing more effective tooth replacement, and increasing support to your facial features.

What is Bone Grafting?

Bone grafting is a minor surgical procedure that is normally done in a dental office. An incision is made in your gum to gain access to the bone beneath it, and then grafting material is added. Most often, the grafting material is processed bone minerals around which your body will actually deposit new bone cells.

Types of Bone Grafts

There are a variety of sources of bone grafting material used for preserving or augmenting bone for dental implants. The grafting material itself can come from your own body, but very often it is bone from an animal or human donor that has been treated by a laboratory to make it sterile and safe. All of these bone grafting materials are backed by significant research. They are processed (except autografts, which do not need processing) use, eliminating the potential for rejection or disease transmission. It can even be a synthetic substance. Grafting material comes in a variety of forms: powder, granules, putty or a gel that can be injected through a syringe. The graft, which is generally covered by a collagen membrane for optimum bone repair, will act as a scaffold onto which your body will build new bone.

  • Autograft: If you are already familiar with the concept of bone grafting, an autograft is probably what you’re thinking of: taking bone from one site in your body and moving it to another. This is the only type of bone graft that involves creating two surgical sites: the one from which the bone is harvested and the one where it is deposited.

  • Allograft: This refers to laboratory-processed human bone from a deceased donor that comes from a tissue bank.

  • Xenograft: This bone grafting material comes from an animal — usually a cow.

  • Alloplast: This type of graft uses synthetic (man-made) materials.

Uses for Bone Grafts

Bone grafts are used in dentistry to accomplish the following treatment goals:

  • Saving Teeth — When severe periodontal disease causes bone loss, teeth can become loose and at risk of being lost. In order to save them, the bone around them can be regenerated through grafting; this increases bone support and helps keep them in place.

  • Tooth Extractions — These days, it is very common to deposit bone grafting material into a tooth socket after a tooth has been removed. That way, should you want to replace your tooth with a dental implant, later on, that option will be available.

  • Dental Implants — In this optimal tooth-replacement system, a small titanium post embedded in the jawbone is attached to a highly realistic dental crown, permanently replacing the missing tooth. Implants require good bone volume and density to achieve their excellent functionality and high success rates. If you have already experienced bone loss, a graft can help regenerate enough bone to place the implant successfully.

What to Expect with a Bone Grafting Procedure

The procedure for placing a bone graft usually requires only local anesthesia, though oral or IV sedatives can also be used to achieve a higher state of relaxation. Because a small incision in your gum tissue needs to be made to access the underlying bone that will receive the graft, you may experience some soreness in the area after the surgery; this can usually be managed by over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication and/or pain relievers as well as ice therapy after the procedure. Though you will soon feel completely back to normal, it may take your body up to seven months for bone maturation to take place to receive your dental implant. The waiting time allows the healing process enough time to achieve the desired result: ideal support for replacement teeth that look great and will last a lifetime.