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What Is Dental Bone Grafting and Why Do We Use It?

A bone graft is a lesser-known therapy that’s often performed alongside of dental implant surgery. Anytime someone doesn’t have enough bone tissue to support teeth, implants, or because of past gum disease, a bone graft may be required. 

Essentially, bone grafts help to reinforce the dental bone that’s responsible for stabilizing your teeth. Since bone loss is a natural problem anytime a tooth is removed, bone grafts help counteract the natural resorption (shrinking) that happens in your jaw once a tooth is missing. By stabilizing your bone anatomy, you can preserve both your facial profile (to help prevent premature aging) and your overall oral function. For people with inadequate bone tissue, a dental bone graft is the best solution.

Why Does Tooth Loss Cause Bone Loss?

Alveolar bone is the portion of our jaw that is responsible for supporting and anchoring our tooth roots. If there is no tooth in that location, then the alveolar bone tissues and ligaments shrink back away from missing teeth. We call this natural process “bone resorption.” As the bone resorbs, we also see changes in the physical appearance of the gum tissue over that area. 

Since the jawbone is built up and strengthened as chewing pressure is applied, bone loss in the alveolar ridge can also result in the deterioration of bone deeper underneath your tooth roots. 

You might ask, “aren’t dental implants supposed to promote healthy bone structure?” The answer is yes. Dental implants trigger a process we call “osseointegration,” which causes the surrounding dental bone to grow and fuse onto the surface of the dental implant. But if there is too much alveolar bone loss, which can happen if you’ve gone a long time after a tooth extraction, the remaining healthy bone tissue will still not be strong enough to anchor the dental implant.

The longer you go between replacing natural teeth, the greater the development defects (gum disease or extraction) your oral surgeon is going to need to correct. That’s why dental implants surgery frequently includes bone grafting

How Do Bone Grafts Work?

In most cases, bone grafting is mainly used for enhancing the jawbone to accommodate an implant or to preserve the natural teeth in that area. You’ll also see a dental bone graft used anytime there is a surgical procedure, such as a sinus lift (upper jaw only). Once the bone graft is placed next to the natural dental bone, the integration (bone growth) process begins. 

Are bone grafts painful? Not at all. However, it does take time for all dental bone grafts to integrate with the jaw. Normally we would want to allow at least a few months after the bone graft is placed before the next phases of your treatment.

When we see missing bone or natural bone loss occurs in areas of gum disease, bone grafting material essentially stops and reverses the deterioration process. Depending on the individual, bone graft material might involve:

  • Transplanting healthy bone tissue.
  • Using an FDA-approved osseous powder.
  • Even placing a synthetic dental bone into that location.

Ultimately the surgical procedure triggers your body into forming new osseous tissue so that it’s healthy enough to support dental implants or teeth. 

What Happens After a Bone Grafting Procedure?

After your dental bone graft surgery, you might be placed on antibiotics to prevent infection as that area heals and integrates. Our dentist also has to wait at least a minimum length of time for the graft to fuse to the natural bones of your mouth. In most cases, it can take between 3-6 months for the bone graft material to completely “take.” If we already know you’re going to have a tooth extraction, we can place a socket graft at the time your tooth is removed. 

Next, you wait. Bone grafts take time to fuse and become part of the jaw where you’ll be getting your replacement tooth. You don’t want to rush the process, no matter how eager you are to address your tooth loss. Regardless of the type of bone grafting material you choose, healthy natural bones just take time to receive bone grafts. New bone does not grow overnight!

Who Needs Bone Grafts?

Anyone who suffers from bone loss might require a bone graft before they can get a dental implant or replace their missing tooth. For example, you’ll almost always need a dental bone graft to assist with sinus cavity healing after a sinus lift procedure. Or if you have aggressive areas of lost bone from periodontal infections.

In our Leawood, KS dental implant office, we may recommend a bone graft if you don’t otherwise qualify for implant therapy. For instance, if your dental bone has resorbed so much that the height of your jaw is too short for an implant, then a bone graft can help regenerate the dental bone at the desired installation points. Dental bone grafting opens up a variety of options for people who may feel frustrated with dentures or who have been told they don’t qualify for dental implant placement.

Bone Grafting is Normal

It is fairly common to incorporate dental bone grafts with implant therapy. However, most people have never heard of needing a bone graft because it’s usually not necessary unless you’re planning to replace your missing teeth. Fortunately, getting a bone graft is an essentially painless and relatively non-complicated procedure, especially when combined with other regular dental routine treatments. Chances are, your dentist may have wanted to recreate bone if you had severe periodontal disease around a specific tooth, where the soft tissue and alveolar bone starts to shrink away (before an extracted or lost tooth is ever a concern.)

Do You Need a Bone Graft Before Getting Dental Implants?

Bone grafting is needed when a person’s own bone is inefficient to sustain dental implants. The socket graft’s primary purpose is to reinforce a dental implant’s chances of success. But the only way to know when and if you need bone grafting is to schedule an exam and X-ray. During your appointment, Dr. Gordon will assess your mouth to see if your own body is healthy enough for dental procedures without needing a new bone graft. 

Contact Gordon Dental in Leawood today for a free consultation to learn more.