Tooth loss is a big deal. It affects your ability to bite and chew your food, impacts your speech, and affects the beauty of your smile. There is also another effect of tooth loss that happens under the gum line. When you lose your teeth, your jawbone begins to weaken. As it does, it changes shape. Your remaining teeth shift out of their natural alignment, throwing off your bite. Your cheeks begin to sag and appear sunken in, causing you to look older.
Why You Should Restore Bone Mass
Dental implants are a popular option for replacing your missing teeth, consisting of titanium rods that are surgically implanted in your jawbone. Implants rely on osseointegration which is the fusion of your jawbone to the implant rods. For this to occur, you need to have sufficient bone mass when you receive your implants. If you have lost too much bone mass, one possible solution is to use bone grafting.
Bone Grafting Restores Bone Mass
Bone grafting is a surgical procedure that is designed to restore the bone mass that is lost following tooth loss. The replacement bone is typically taken from somewhere else in your body (your hip, tibia, or even from somewhere else in your jaw). In some cases, it may be necessary to use the bone mass from a donor, or a bone graft substitute. During your recovery, the existing bone in your jaw fuses with, or around, the graft material, restoring the strength, and the shape, to the bone.
The Different Types of Bone Grafts
- Autogenous Bone Graft
An autogenous bone graft is one that uses bone mass from your own body. While this type of graft requires two different surgical sites, there is no worry about graft rejection. An autogenous graft is also considered living tissue, which means that it will promote new bone growth.
- Allogenic Bone Graft
An allogenic graft is one that uses bone mass from a compatible donor (cadaver). Only one surgical site is required, but there is a small risk of rejection.
- Xenogenic Bone Graft
With a xenogenic graft, the bone material is taken from another species. The bone is processed at high temperatures to reduce the risk of infection and rejection.
- Synthetic Materials
In some cases, synthetic materials such as demineralized bone matrix and morphogenic proteins are used.
How is a Bone Graft Performed?
Before undergoing a bone graft procedure, we first conduct a consultation to ensure that the procedure is the best course of action for you. During your consultation, we examine your mouth and take X-rays. X-rays allow us to see the condition of your jawbone and create your customized treatment plan.
On the day of your surgery, we begin by administering a local anesthetic to the surgical site(s). If necessary, we can provide you with sedation. For an autogenous bone graft, two incisions are made, one at the “donor site,” and one at the “recipient site.” For other types of bone grafts, we only need to make incisions at the recipient site. The bone graft material is packed into the weakened areas of your jaw. When we are finished, the wounds are sutured closed, and you can go home to begin the healing process. Once you have healed from your bone graft, then the process for dental implants can begin.