Bone grafting is often closely associated with dental restorations such as dental implants. In the majority of cases, the success of a restoration procedure can hinge on the height, depth, and width of the jawbone at the implant site. When the jawbone has receded or sustained significant damage, the implant(s) cannot be supported on this unstable foundation and bone grafting is usually recommended for the ensuing restoration.
There are several major factors that affect jaw bone volume:
- Periodontal Disease – Gum disease can affect and permanently damage the jaw bone that supports the teeth. Affected areas progressively worsen until the teeth become unstable.
- Tooth Extraction – Studies have shown that patients who have experienced a tooth extraction subsequently lose bone surrounding the extraction site during the following three years. Loss of bone results in what is called a “bone defect”.
- Injuries and Infections – Dental injuries and other physical injuries resulting from a blow to the jaw can cause the bone to recede. Infections can also cause the jaw bone to recede in a similar way.
Initially, the doctor will thoroughly examine the affected area in order to assess the general condition of the teeth and gums. If periodontal disease is present or the adjacent teeth are in poor condition, these factors will be fully addressed before the bone grafting procedure can begin. The doctor will also recommend panoramic x-rays in order to assess the precise depth and width of the existing bone. On occasion, a CAT scan may be recommended to determine the bone condition.
What Does Bone Grafting Involve?
There are several sources for obtaining bone grafts.
- Autogenous Bone Graft – Harvested from the patient’s own body (usually from the posterior part of the lower jaw or the chin).
- Allograft Bone Graft – Cadaver or synthetic bone is used in this type of graft.
- Xenograft – Cow bone is used in this type of graft.
The healing period after the bone grafting procedure can take anywhere from 4-6 months to complete. Bone is typically harvested from your own body (or on rare occasions obtained from a “bone bank”) and added to the affected site. This bone will fuse with the existing bone and the migration of cells will cause firm adhesion and cell growth. Supplementing the jaw with bone will result in greater bone mass to help support and anchor the implant(s).