Bone grafts are required for certain dental restoration treatments, such as implants and bridges, where an amount of bone is required but is not present in the mouth. The process of receiving the bone graft will often depend on exactly how much width, height, and depth the current bone is. In cases where the bone is very severely damaged, or has receded a great deal, treatments such as implants and bridges cannot take place as the bone will not be able to support it, and so bone grafts are prescribed as the best course of action.
The amount of jaw bone a person has can change due to:
- Periodontal disease: gum disease, if left untreated, will damage the jaw bone and leave it much smaller. This makes teeth very unstable, and likely to fall out
- Tooth extraction: when a tooth is removed, over the next three years it is likely that the patient will see a reduction of bone by between 40 and 60%, termed by dentists as a bone defect
- Injuries and infections: blows to the jaw, and other similar injuries, can cause the jaw bone to recede, and so can infections that get into the jaw bone
Reasons For Bone Grafting
Bone grafting treatments are often very successful, and is a much better choice that having missing teeth, diseased teeth, or uncomfortable jaw bone deformities, especially as bone grafting will often increase the height or width of the jaw bone, filling in any voids.
There are two main positive side effects from bone grafts:
- Jaw stabilization: before any treatment such as implant surgery can begin, bone grafting will give your jaw bone the stability it requires. Bone grafts will also give additional support to weak parts of the jaw
- Preservation: by limiting the amount of bone loss that takes place, a bone graft can help preserve the bone you already had – and help prevent loss due to any tooth extraction
At the beginning of the process, your dentist will examine your mouth carefully in order to assess the condition of your bone, gums, and teeth. If there is gum disease close by, or there is decay or problems with the tooth, it will have to be healed or removed before the bone graft can take place. Panoramic x-rays will almost certainly be carried out so that the dentist can gain a clear view of what state the bone is in. In some cases, a CAT scan will be requested for a clearer look. From the results of these tests, your dentist may decide to numb the area around your tooth, and perform an exploratory procedure to exactly assess how much bone you will need.
What is Involved In Bone Grafting?
There are three main types of bone graft, and your dentist will test you to decide which is the best treatment for you. They are:
- Autogeneous Bone Graft: bone is taken from somewhere else in the patient’s body, usually the lower back portion of the chin or jaw. This is the most successful type, as the body is unlikely to reject the bone
- Allograft Bone Graft: synthetic bone or cadaver bone is used when there is not enough bone elsewhere in the patient to us
- Xenograft Bone Graft: bone from a cow is used if the two other methods are not available
A bone graft is not a simple procedure, and can take several months from beginning to end. At first, the bone must be acquired, and if it’s from the patient’s body it needs to be removed. It will then be placed in the new location, and fused together. This new bone will be used to support any new treatments, and any current teeth.
At the beginning of the surgery, the dentist will numb the area with a local anaesthetic, and then a small cut is made to prepare the site of the new bone. Once the bone has been placed, a dentist will often use a membrane over it which will keep out bacteria ad infection, helping the new bone to grow healthily. An overnight stay is required for this procedure, and clear information on how to look after your new bone will be given to you. There will also be medicine to take that will help with swelling and discomfort, and will fight infection.
If you have questions, or would like a free consultation regarding a bone graft procedure, call us at (619) 640-5100.