What is a dental bone graft?
A dental bone graft is the procedure by which bone is added to your jaw, usually to enable a dental implant. A person can lose bone density due to missing teeth that have not been replaced, or due to chronic periodontal disease. Dental implants require sufficient bone in the jaw to be properly supported, and where the bone is insufficient, a graft will be necessary before placing an implant.
Causes of dental bone loss
There are two main causes of bone loss: missing teeth and chronic periodontal disease.
When a tooth falls out or is extracted, and the gum is left open, the jaw bone at the site begins to recede. Jaw bone is maintained by the pressure of chewing, so when this pressure is removed, the jaw bone naturally shrinks. Up to 25% of bone mass is lost in the first year after a tooth is lost, and the loss continues.
Causes of adult tooth loss
We may lose teeth due to:
- Periodontal (gum) disease
- Dental caries (cavities) and infection
- Injury or trauma
- A defect in development.
With chronic periodontal disease, bacteria gradually eats away at the bone and supporting ligaments.
Bone grafting procedure
There are multiple procedures used for bone grafting. Where the loss is less severe, or the tooth recently removed, a socket graft is usually possible. A socket graft involves applying a granular graft material to the socket of the lost tooth, which both stimulates bone growth and replaces some of the lost bone. Where the bone loss is too extensive for a socket graft to fix, a live bone graft is necessary. A small block of bone from elsewhere in the body is planted with the graft material, and heals with time to build up the bone in the jaw.
After bone grafting, we usually wait 4–9 months before placing implants. Bone grafts can be a very safe and effective way to maintain the health of your teeth and mouth, and to prevent further bone loss by enabling us to replace missing teeth with dental implants.