The chances are good that you've heard the phrase “dental implants” thrown around a few times, even if you've never had one. However, not many people have heard about bone grafting. Ironically, dental implants and bone grafting often go “hand-in-hand” in the dental industry.
What is Bone Grafting?
In technical terms, a bone graft is a surgical procedure to repair or rebuild bones through the transplantation of bone tissue. By transplanting healthy bone tissue, dentists can recreate bone and supporting tissues that are missing in the area where a person lost a tooth.
This bone grafting concept can be a little confusing, so let’s compare it to repairing a hole in your drywall. When you are trying to repair a large hole in your wall at home, you first need to fill the void with a piece of drywall that fits tightly in the space. Then you cover the drywall patch with a joint compound to seal the area. After finishing with a little paint, your wall is like new!
In a similar fashion, with bone grafting you are attempting to repair a hole in the jawbone. When you lose a tooth due to injury or decay, the hole in the bone where the root was embedded must be filled with bone or the mouth will collapse the unneeded space. If this occurs, you risk not ever being able to have a successful implant because there will not be enough bone to hold the implant in place. The quicker you can have a bone graft completed after the tooth is lost, the less intense the grafting process and the higher the rate of a successful dental implant procedure.
How Do You Repair the Hole?
In the most basic bone grafting process, your dentist will start by filling the hole in your jawbone with bone particles. Then they'll cover the area with a sterile bandage called a membrane. Once the body integrates these into your mouth, your dentist can evaluate the area and hopefully start the initial implant treatment.
What are the Different Levels of Bone Grafting?
There are several different types of bone grafting. The type of bone graft used depends on the extent of the damage you're suffering from and the location of the lost tooth.
1. Socket Grafts
A socket graft is ideally conducted immediately after a tooth is removed in order to conserve the alveolar ridge and stop any bone deterioration from occurring. Bone material is inserted into the vacant socket left by the displaced tooth.
In most cases, modern-day socket grafts use "xenograft materials" or bone from a nonhuman source, such as animals (usually a cow). Amazingly, over time, the body adjusts to the composition of this foreign bone material until it becomes human bone. It usually takes 3 to 6 months for the graft to heal before you can add a dental implant.
2. Block Bone Grafts
This type of bone graft typically uses human bone in the form of a small "block" taken from the patient's chin or lower jaw near where they once had wisdom teeth.
Block bone grafts are selectively used where a xenograft would not render enough bone thickness to build up the already deteriorated ridge. This process is very similar to a socket graft with about the same healing timeline.
3. Sinus Lift Grafts
This bone grafting method is needed when a patient requires an implant in the upper jaw, since this area is not typically stable enough to hold a dental implant. If the maxillary sinus cavity is too close to where a dental implant is needed, a sinus lift graft is performed.
This type of grafting customarily uses equine bone, because it doesn't dissolve as quickly as human bone and microscopically is more comparable to human bone. This equine bone creates a kind of "scaffold" that promotes the growth of bone in the sinus. After a sinus lift graft, the healing process typically takes 8-12 months.
Schedule A Consultation
While bone grafting may seem scary, it is comforting to know that this type of procedure is common and plays an important role in successful dental implant surgery. If you'd like to schedule a consultation or have any questions about bone grafting, give us a call today!