Bone Grafting: What It Is and How It Helps

A missing tooth doesn’t just take away from your smile’s appearance, but it affects the structure of your mouth as well. The jaw bone can begin to recede, which presents a problem if you later want to replace the missing tooth (or teeth) with a dental implant, dentures, or a partial. To fix this, a bone graft will be necessary. Bone grafting is a fairly common dental procedure in which the bone is reconstructed so that it can support a dental prosthetic.

Bone grafting after an extraction

If a tooth has to be extracted, due to injury or disease, your dentist can usually do a simple bone graft to fill the extraction site and prevent the bone from resorbing. To do this, he or she will pack the empty tooth socket with freeze-dried human bone granules and possibly cover the area with a thin membrane and a few stitches. This procedure takes about half an hour. You may need to return for a post-op check-up the next day, then another one about a week later. It takes about four to six weeks for the site to heal, at which time it will be ready to support complete or partial dentures.

Bone grafting after mild bone loss

If the tooth has been missing for a short while, the bone may have resorbed already, which will require a larger bony replacement. This is taken from your own bone from another section of your mouth or body, then placed (along with the freeze dried bone) into the site. This may also be covered over with a membrane and stitched closed. Generally, the body will accept this graft since it’s taken from your own bone, as long as antibiotics are taken to fend off infection.

Bone grafting after extensive bone loss

On the other hand, if the tooth has been missing for a long time, or you’ve suffered from periodontal disease, you may have extensive bone loss. This will require a much larger bone graft, which can be a combination of materials including your own bone, freeze-dried human bone, an animal bone, or a synthetic bone substitute.

Benefits of bone grafting

Not replacing a tooth can lead to occlusion (bite) problems, caries (cavities), and periodontal (gum) disease. It can also allow the remaining teeth to shift along the gum line. Rebuilding the jaw bone provides you with more options as to how to fill in the gap.