Bone Grafts in Dentistry
The idea of having a bone graft might sound a little scary, but this advanced technique is frequently used when preparing the jaw to receive dental implants, and it isn’t something that should make you feel concerned. In fact, bone grafts are a terrific treatment for ensuring your dental implants will be more successful.
When Would I Need a Bone Graft?
A bone graft is generally used in preparation for dental implants, restoring bone in areas where it is inadequate and ensuring there will be sufficient bone to hold your dental implants in position securely. You might not have enough bone if your natural teeth were removed quite some time ago, or if you had periodontal disease or gum disease. When natural teeth are removed, then it does affect your jawbone, and without the stimulation provided by natural tooth roots, the bone that used to surround them will gradually resorb. Periodontal disease is a bacterial infection that destroys bone and gum tissue, frequently leading to tooth loss.
Sometimes bone grafts are needed to build up areas of the jawbone where the bone is naturally thinner and less able to support dental implants. One area of the jawbone where the bone is often thinner is nearest to the sinus cavities, which are large air-filled spaces just about your upper back teeth. If these teeth need replacing with dental implants, then it’s quite common to need what’s called a sinus lift, where the membrane separating the sinus cavity from the jawbone is “lifted” upwards to create additional room for new bone to be placed.
Often bone grafting is used in conjunction with gum surgery, restoring missing bone and gum tissue that may have been destroyed by periodontal disease. In addition to ensuring implant treatment is more successful, restoring missing bone can also help to ensure your new dental implant-supported teeth look more aesthetically pleasing because the bone graft will support the gum surrounding your dental implants to create a nicer appearance.
What Are the Different Types of Bone Grafts?
Several different types of bone grafts are used in dentistry. The first type of bone graft is called an autogenous bone graft and is where the bone is taken from another site in your body. The advantage of an autogenous bone graft is the very low risk of rejection because the bone is already part of you. However, with an autogenous bone graft, you would need an additional procedure to harvest the bone, so that treatment could be slightly more complicated.
The second type of bone graft is an allograft, which is human donor bone. To ensure the bone is perfectly safe for use, it is extensively tested and sterilized. Human donor bone cannot produce any new bone cells on its own, but it will act as a framework or scaffolding, allowing your body to create bone cells to fill in the void or defect. Alternatively, donor bone can be harvested from a different species and is normally bovine. Just like human bone, this type of bone graft which is called a xenograft is also extensively tested and sterilized for your safety, and it acts as a scaffold, allowing new bone cells to grow on and around it.
Another type of bone graft material is made artificially and may contain growth factors, proteins, and collagen to encourage new bone growth. Regardless of which type of bone grafting material you have, it will be replaced within a year or so by your bone as your body gradually absorbs the graft.
Will a Bone Graft Extend Treatment Time?
If you only need a small amount of bone grafting material, then it may be possible to have it placed at the same time as the dental implant. Alternatively, bone grafting material might be inserted into the empty tooth socket at the time the tooth is removed. However, sometimes it may be necessary to place the bone grafting material and to leave it for three to six months to heal and integrate with your natural jawbone. Where this is the case, the overall treatment time for dental implants will be slightly longer. Don’t let this put you off treatment because although you probably want to receive your new implant-supported teeth as soon as possible, it’s worth remembering that this treatment should last you for years. Spending a little more time on treatment is well worth it in the longer term!
Finding out If You Need a Bone Graft
When you first visit us here at Ivory Dental, our dentist Dr. Benjamin Hull can carefully examine your jaws and existing teeth and will determine the best treatment plan. Advanced diagnostic tests are required, and which include a cone beam CT scan which produces a 3-D digital image of your jaws. Your CT scan is an essential diagnostic tool for Dr. Hull, allowing him to see all the structures hidden from view including nerves and blood vessels, and to evaluate the quantity and quality of your jawbone. Armed with this information, Dr. Hull can decide if a bone graft is needed and where precisely to place it for the best treatment outcome.
Dental bone grafting techniques have evolved tremendously over the past decade or so and while it is a surgical procedure, it’s essential in ensuring you can receive implant teeth even if your jawbone is deficient. Before bone grafting techniques were developed and refined, patients lacking sufficient bone couldn’t benefit from dental implants. Now, it’s possible for virtually anyone to have dental implant surgery and to enjoy a beautiful and functional smile, which with the proper dental care, may even last for life.
Don’t Worry If You’re Nervous
If you are someone who feels a bit anxious or nervous during dental visits and you find the idea of a bone graft a little alarming, then please don’t worry! Dr. Hull is exceptionally gentle, and our entire team provides compassionate dental care. If needed, we can discuss additional sedation for patients with dental anxieties or phobias, including intravenous sedation. Sometimes dental sedation can be a great solution and especially where oral surgery is required. We can complete more complicated treatments such as bone grafts or dental implants while you comfortably relax in the dental chair. One of the great things about sedation dentistry is that it can seem as if only a few moments have passed when you have been so comfortable you might even have fallen asleep.