What Is Bone Grafting?
The bone grafting procedure is required when the jawbone has deteriorated to the point where it can no longer support existing or replacement teeth. The jawbone holds the roots of teeth in place; your teeth depend on the integrity of the bone to keep from shifting when you bite or chew. When a tooth is lost, the bone, which no longer serves the function of holding the root, begins to erode until it creates a hollow cavity in your jawline. Once significant bone loss has occurred, your oral surgeon will need to perform a bone graft before any replacement teeth can be placed – and before further deterioration causes damage to neighboring teeth.
Do I Need a Bone Graft?
In some cases, a bone graft is not needed to support dental implants. However, in others, there is not enough bone to support the implant placement. Dentures and bridges serve the functions of the exterior part of the tooth but not the root. Over time bone loss above the dentures or bridges may become so severe that it causes neighboring teeth to shift to the point where the false external teeth no longer fit properly. Dental implants are the only tooth replacement solution that maintains the integrity of the jawbone. For this reason, your dentist may recommend that you receive a bone graft to enable your jawline to receive dental implants or implant-supported dentures.
How Does the Procedure Work?
How your dentist will proceed with the bone graft depends on the number of teeth missing from the affected area and the severity of the bone loss. There are several possible scenarios. If you have just recently lost a single tooth, bone loss can be mitigated quickly with little recovery time needed. In these cases, the graft can often be performed in the same procedure as placing the implant. If you have been wearing dentures for a significant time, your bone loss may be so severe that your dentures no longer fit properly. In this case, your jawline will require extensive restoration, and the recovery period will be lengthy. This type of graft usually requires a separate surgery and a recovery period before dental implants can be placed.
The procedure involves filling the area the missing tooth or teeth used to occupy with bone graft granules. The granules look similar to sand and can be made from your available bone, a freeze-dried human or processed animal bone from a tissue bank, or a mineral bone substitute. Your bone is the most effective graft material and can be extracted from parts of your body where sufficient bone exists. Your dentist will then close up the area with sutures. Over time the graft material will integrate with the surrounding bone tissue and restore the area to a suitable bone capacity.
Is Bone Grafting Safe?
If completed by a highly trained doctor like your dentist, the surgery is safe and reliable. Your dentist will ensure that all grafting materials are sterile and come from a reputable national tissue bank. The best chance for the success of the surgery is using bone material from your own body, so your dentist will discuss with you all options and aspects of the procedure to make sure you firmly understand how the process will work for you.