Updated: Jan 19, 2020
While the idea of bone grafting might seem alarming, this is in fact a fairly routine procedure that is used to support and strengthen the structure of your jaw. Grafts are generally required when patients have lost density or firmness in their teeth-supporting bone. This regularly occurs in cases where patient lose one or more teeth.
Why Bone Loss Occurs
The continuous action of the tooth and roots provides consistent stimulation to the underlying jawbone this activity lets the brain know that the bone is being utilized. Once a tooth is lost, there is no longer any such stimulation. As a result, the body will begin to reabsorb the bone’s calcium for use in other areas. This steady erosion can lead to a 25% reduction in bone density in just the first year of tooth loss. If the deterioration is not treated then the loss of bone mass can spread to the surrounding bone as well, which can significantly weaken the overall structure of your jaw. Bone loss can also be caused by developmental defects, severe periodontal diseases, or severe trauma to the mouth and face.
The best method of warding off bone loss is getting any lost teeth replaced as early as possible. In this case, a dental implant that is rooted into the actual bone will be your best option, as the implant will mimic the stimulation provided by a natural tooth. While bridges will function as a cosmetic replacement they will not offer the same benefit as they are not anchored in the actual structure of the jaw.
When Bone Grafts are Necessary
When these steps are not taken in time, bone grafts can provide an effective treatment option. Bone grafts offer a variety of benefits, such as:
Preventing Further Tooth Loss – As mentioned above, tooth loss and periodontal disease can weaken the oral environment. Bone grafts work to support existing teeth by providing a strong foundation for the regeneration of bone mass in these areas.
Post-Extraction Treatment – After tooth extraction dentists will often apply bone grafts to the empty socket. This creates a foundation for any future dental implants.
Dental Implants – A successful dental implant requires a strong jawbone with adequate bone density and volume. If your jawbone is considered to be too thin or soft for an implant then bone grafting is generally recommended.
Bone Graft Process
A bone graft can be performed using bone tissue from your own body, or it may involve processed bone matter from another source such as equine or bovine bone. The source of bone matter will generally depend on the type of surgery performed.
Before the surgery, your dentist will take a CT or CBCT scan to evaluate the surgical site. This scan reveals vital information on the dimensions and density of the current jawbone, as well as the health and height of the surrounding teeth. Your surgeon can also manipulate this image using 3D imaging software to determine the viability of any procedure.
Based on this analysis your dental surgeon will recommend one or more grafting procedures, these could include:
This treatment is used to support teeth or dental implants in the upper jaw. This is generally considered to be the most sensitive bone grafting procedure because of the proximity to the maxillary sinus, which is one of the body’s natural airways. Bovine or equine bone may be added to human bone in this type of graft, as implants in the upper jaw will usually require far more support.
When a tooth is extracted, the resulting cavity can be filled with bone material. This prevents atrophy in the underlying jawbone and further erosion of the socket. Human bone matter is generally used for this procedure.
Block Bone Graft
These types of grafts are generally used in cases where patients experience extensive bone loss due to genetic defects, trauma or disease (caused by tumors). The procedure involves harvesting a substantial block of bone from the back of the jaw which is then applied to the affected area and screwed in place with titanium bolts.