What is bone grafting?
Dental implants are far and away the best option for tooth replacement, and Dr. Glasser has extensive expertise placing them. However, in cases where a patient has been missing a tooth or a few teeth for some time, the jawbone has likely suffered bone loss. This occurs because the teeth transfer energy created by biting and chewing down into the jawbone. This energy signals the jawbone to continually shed old cells and replace them with new bone cells. This is how the jawbone stays healthy. When teeth are missing, the jawbone beneath them doesn’t receive this energy and it begins to resorb (deteriorate). Now there may not be sufficient bone mass to adequately anchor the dental implant’s titanium base. Or the jawbone that is there could be too soft.
In these cases, Dr. Glasser will need to build the jawbone back up to successfully accommodate the implant. This is called bone grafting.
What is the bone grafting process?
The procedure is not difficult, although the name sounds a little intimidating. Dr. Glasser usually performs bone-grafting procedures with the patient under local anesthesia. First, he makes a small incision in the gum tissue to gain access to the area of the bone that will receive the bone graft. For implant placement, this will usually be in the socket formerly occupied by the natural tooth root. The bone graft can come from another bone in the body, or from synthetic bone graft material. Dr. Glasser places the graft into the tooth socket, covers it with a collagen membrane, and closes the incision.
Next, we need to wait for several months for the transplanted material to grow enough new bone to support a dental implant. The body slowly replaces the grafting material with new bone.
In some cases where Dr. Glasser thinks there is adequate bone mass, but believes there has been bone loss, he may insert bone graft material at the time of the placement of the implant. Then the jaw will generate new bone mass at the same time the bone is growing around the implant.
The graft used during this procedure may come from:
- The patient's own body
- A cadaver bone
- Cow bone
- Synthetic material
The most effective results are often achieved by using the patient's own bone.
Who is a good candidate for bone grafting?
Anyone who has lost bone mass is a candidate for bone grafting. These are the general conditions where a person would need grafting:
- Dental implants — As explained above, grafts rebuild bone to adequately anchor and support dental implants.
- Tooth extractions — For adult tooth extractions, it is common for the dentist or oral surgeon to place bone-grafting material down in the tooth socket after a tooth has been removed. This ensures that, should the patient want to replace the tooth with an implant down the road, there will be adequate bone mass.
- To save teeth — When a person has severe periodontal disease, the teeth can become loose and there is risk of losing multiple teeth. Bone grafting can be done around the teeth to increase bone and support the teeth.
What are the benefits of bone grafting?
The real benefit of rebuilding jawbone mass with bone grafting is in what it doesn’t do. By making the jawbone able to support an implant, or to stabilize loose teeth due to periodontal disease, this can possibly prevent the person from needing to lose all of his or her teeth, which would then require the wearing of dentures.
How long is recovery after a bone graft?
You may experience some soreness in the area of the bone graft, but it is not acute and can be managed with over-the-counter pain medication. The small incision to access the bone heals quickly, as long as you’re not a smoker. Discomfort only lasts a day or two.