Bone grafting can be necessary to reconstruct bone deficiencies in the jaws following trauma or pathology surgery and can provide adequate bone for dental implant placement. Bone for this procedure can come from the patient (autograft) or from a donor source including cadaveric human bone (allograft) or animal bone (xenograft). Your surgeon will discuss grafting options with you and help you decide a plan that best fits your needs.
Uses of bone grafts
Bone grafting, in general, is a procedure that uses transplanted bone to repair or rebuild bones that are damaged or diseased. This surgical procedure can literally be done anywhere in the body and is often used when a person has a structural weakness or deficiency of bone in a particular area.
In the dental world, bone grafting is a well-accepted surgical procedure that can help restore adequate bone under the “gums” to allow for dental implant placement and restoration of healthy oral function and esthetics even after tooth extraction.
- Dental implants – Dental implant surgery is a method for replacing missing teeth. During the initial part of this procedure, which eventually results in the placement of new artificial teeth, the surgeon implants a titanium post in the spot where the missing tooth once stood, embedding it in the jawbone. It will eventually be attached to a crown, permanently replacing the missing tooth or teeth. However, for implants to be successful, good bone volume and density should be present. When that’s not the case, a graft can help regenerate enough bone to make the procedure successful.
- Extractions – A common practice with tooth extractions is for the surgeon to place bone grafting material into the socket after the tooth has been removed (“socket/ridge preservation”). This way, the area is ready to receive an implant and new tooth not long after having a natural tooth extracted.
So, where does the bone come from?
The bone for the graft may come from another part of the patient’s jaw or body, but often it comes from an animal or cadaver donor. This practice of using donor bone is very safe and these options can eliminate the need for the patient to undergo two separate surgeries and avoid having two incisions.
What happens during bone grafting surgery?
Bone grafting procedures will most commonly occur in the oral surgeon’s office and is often done with just the use of a local anesthetic. However, if the patient is extremely nervous and needs to achieve a better state of relaxation, an oral or IV sedative can be used.
During the surgery, a small incision is made in the gum tissue in the area where the bone that requires the graft can be accessed. The “new” bone is put in place, sometimes held firm with a thin biodegradable membrane and a few dissolving sutures to hold the gum tissue together.
That’s really all there is to it. It is generally not a long procedure and discomfort is minimal.
Afterwards, the patient is likely to experience some soreness and some minor bleeding, but the bleeding should be minimal and the pain or swelling should be able to be controlled by over-the-counter pain relievers and cool compresses.
Your oral surgeon will provide instructions about brushing or rinsing and additional care following bone grafting surgery. It’s also likely that you will need to eat soft foods for a few days after the surgery.
Remember, if this surgery is being completed for the purpose of inserting dental implants, it could be 3 – 4 months before the transplanted bone produces enough new bone to support the implant. Your surgeon will monitor your progress and let you know when you can proceed with the implant process.