While we often think of bones as rigid and unchanging dense materials in our body, the fact is that they are continually changing. Bones always undergo the process of remodeling, where old bone is replaced by new stronger bone. New bone cells are deposited while the old bone cells are recycled. Sometimes, this process can result in damage or weakening of the bones. This is especially true for the bones that hold our teeth in place.
As we enter adulthood or encounter sickness and disease, tooth loss can also be accompanied by the process of resorption. This is when the surrounding bone starts to be resorbed back into the body. As we lose more teeth and bone structure surrounding the teeth, facial features may begin to sag. Modern medicine has been able to help restore this bone loss through bone grafting. This builds bone and can restore tooth strength and appearance. While bone grafting may sound like a significant surgical procedure, it can be performed in most dentist’s offices. A small incision is made in the gums, and then the grafting material is added through the incision to the bones. The grafting material is composed of minerals that trigger your body to grow new bone.
Over time, your body will deposit and build bone by itself. The grafting material comes in a variety of different forms. It can come as a powder, granules, or a gel that can be inserted through a syringe. This material comes from an animal, human, or even yourself. A laboratory processes this material to ensure that it is clean and sterile. Once the bone graft has been placed, it is usually covered with a thin membrane that acts as a framework for the new bone to be deposited upon.
Bone grafts are used in a variety of dental applications. These include:
Teeth Saving – Periodontal disease accounts for a large portion of lost teeth in dental patients. As the underlying bone weakens and teeth become loose, your dentist may suggest a bone graft to try to save and strengthen the teeth.
After Tooth Extraction – Once an adult tooth is removed, it leaves an empty socket. Bone grafts can help to fill in this space and strengthen the jaw. Bone grafts also help to reduce the possibility of the body beginning to resorb the surrounding bone.
Dental Implants – When a dental implant is placed, a small titanium post is placed into the jawbone. If the underlying bone is already weak, then it may make this placement difficult. A bone graft can help to strengthen the jawbone and allow for secure placement of the post and the associated implant.
While the process of placing a bone graft is a minor procedure, it still involves a minimal amount of incision in order to place the graft. Anytime that incisions are made, there is the potential for infection, and you must allow proper time for healing. When you receive the bone graft, it is likely that your dentist will give you local anesthesia to the gums. This allows for the numbing of only the area that will be affected. Due to the nature of the procedure, it is normal to feel some soreness and even notice some swelling and redness at the incision site. This can usually be treated with an over the counter pain medication. This discomfort should be resolved within a few days.
Many patients with periodontal disease or other dental issues may find that their case is further complicated through bone loss. Fortunately, the process of bone grafting is a readily available procedure that can help to restore bone in the jaw and allow for improved appearance and better dental outcomes. If you think that bone grafting may help you, please contact your dentist today to schedule an appointment.