Bone grafting can be a useful tool that helps restore lost teeth. Especially if you’re considering dental implant surgery. If you’ve lost bone to gum disease or are planning a dental implant, your dentist might recommend grafting. To see whether grafting can be right for your situation, it’s helpful to learn a little about the procedure.
What Is Bone Grafting?
Bone grafting is a process that involves fixing damaged bone by adding new tissue. The human skeletal system can repair fractures, but it doesn’t replace bone lost to disease or atrophy on its own. The only way to restore this lost bone is by adding new material.
There are a few different ways to add new material to the bone. Some treatments harvest a sliver of bone from somewhere else in the patient’s own body. Others use sterilized donor material from a cadaver or from animals. Over time, the healing bone replaces the graft, that was used as a scaffold. This results in a larger, stronger section of bone.
Why Do Some Dental Implants Require Bone Grafting?
If you need an implant, it’s important to make sure the underlying jaw bone is in good shape. The best implant surgeons determine where the future tooth needs to go, and backwards-plan the ideal implant position from there. This approach gives the best long-term success for implants. Sometimes there is not enough bone to put the implant in the ideal position. Without enough bone to cover the implant, it will become infected by dental plaque, and eventually fail.
Any time your dentist sees you don’t have enough jawbone to hold an implant, they might suggest a graft. There are many things that can cause you to need a graft before your implant. Some common reasons include:
- Chronic infection from gum disease
- Missing tooth for several years
- Misfitting dentures
- Dental abscesses
How Effective Is Bone Grafting?
Bone grafting is very safe and usually effective on the first try. Occasionally the body dissolves the graft or it becomes infected and requires revision. Research indicates that implants placed in a bone graft have a similar high survival rate compared to native bone.
The effectiveness of a bone graft will depend on the type of graft you pick.
- Grafts from your own bone: These are the most biocompatible, but they can dissolve the most quickly. These used to require a trip to the hospital to borrow a piece of bone from the hip or skull, but nowadays a little bone can be harvested from within the mouth and combined with donor bone.
- Grafts from a donor bone: This is the most common bone graft used in the USA. The big perk of this option is that your doctor doesn’t harvest bone from you at a second surgical site.
- Animal graft: If the idea of using bone from a cadaver bothers you, you can get a graft from an animal bone. Animal grafts do not turnover as well into living bone, but they can safely add volume and are often combined with some of your own bone.
- Synthetic graft: These grafts are the least successful and are not used very commonly.
What You Can Expect
A bone graft procedure usually follows these steps:
- Your doctor will give you local anesthesia, and possibly sedation to relax you if you are nervous.
- The gums are carefully opened access the bone.
- The bone graft will be covered with a membrane and may be held in place with a few stitches or tiny screws.
- The periodontist will close up the surgical sites.
- For the next few days, you should rest, eat soft foods, take anti-inflammatories, and antibiotic, and apply ice packs.
- You will use a prescription disinfectant mouth rinse for 2 weeks until all stitches are removed
- Your jaw will feel normal after about a month.
- In a few months, the new bone will be strong enough for an implant.
Why See a periodontist?
The periodontist has taken at least 3 extra years of residency training after dental school, to specialize in grafting the bone and soft tissues around the teeth. The periodontist has expertise in the biology of wound healing, in saving natural teeth, and in placing dental implants.
A study of the Journal of the American Dental Association reported that the highest success rate for dental implants were those placed by specialists. Specifically the highest success rate was by periodontists, among all types of dentists.
If you have tooth loss, don’t let jawbone damage stop you from getting treatment. Southern Colorado Periodontics & Implants is happy to assist you with bone grafting. Our talented team can help with every step, from selecting your grafting material to fitting the final implant. Call us today to schedule an appointment for a consultation.