We often think of our bones as rigid and unchanging materials in our bodies, but the truth is that our bones are constantly undergoing a process called remodeling. Remodeling is where old bone is replaced by new stronger bone, and new bone cells are deposited while the old bone cells are recycled. Sometimes, this process can result in the damaging or weakening of the bones, especially when it comes to the bones that hold our teeth in place. As we enter adulthood or encounter sickness and disease, tooth loss can also be accompanied by the process of resorption, which is when the surrounding bone starts to be resorbed back into the body. As we lose more teeth and bone structure surrounding the teeth, facial features may begin to sag.
However, modern medicine has been able to help restore this bone loss through bone grafting, which is a procedure that builds bone and can restore tooth strength and appearance. While bone grafting may sound like a significant surgical procedure, it can be performed in most dentist’s offices. The procedure itself involves making a small incision in the gums and then adding grafting material through the incision to the bones. The grafting material is composed of minerals that trigger your body to grow new bone which will, over time, cause your body to deposit and build bone by itself. The grafting material comes in a variety of different forms including a powder, granules, or a gel that can be inserted through a syringe. This material can come from an animal, a human, or even yourself and is processed by a laboratory to ensure that it is clean and sterile. Once the bone graft has been placed, it is usually then covered with a thin membrane that acts as a framework for the new bone to be deposited upon.
Bone grafts are used in a variety of dental applications including:
Dental Implants – When a dental implant is placed, a small titanium post is placed into the jawbone. If the underlying bone is already weak, then it may make this placement difficult. A bone graft can help to strengthen the jawbone and allow for secure placement of the post and the associated implant.
Teeth Saving – Periodontal disease accounts for a large portion of lost teeth in dental patients. As the underlying bone weakens and teeth become loose, your dentist may suggest a bone graft to try to save and strengthen the teeth.
After Tooth Extraction – Once an adult tooth is removed, it leaves an empty socket. Bone grafts can help to fill in this space and strengthen the jaw. Bone grafts also help to reduce the possibility of the body beginning to resorb the surrounding bone.
While the process of placing a bone graft is a minor procedure, it still involves making a small incision in order to place the graft. Anytime that incisions are made, there is the potential for infection, which is why you must allow the proper time for healing. When you receive the bone graft, your dentist will administer local anesthesia to the gums which allow for the numbing of only the area that will be affected. Due to the nature of the procedure, it is normal to feel some soreness and even notice some swelling and redness at the incision site. This can usually be treated with over-the-counter pain medication and the discomfort should be resolved within a few days.