When a patient has been missing a tooth or a few teeth for a period of time, there is a good chance their jawbone in the area has deteriorated. This is because the jawbone hasn’t received the energy delivered down through the teeth into the jaw when we bite and chew.
This energy constantly triggers the jawbone to shed old cells and build new cells to replace them. This is how our jawbone stays healthy throughout our life. Without the energy due to the missing teeth above, the jawbone in that area begins to resorb. When this happens on a large scale, the person missing most or all of his or her teeth can appear as if their jaw is collapsing backward.
That’s why it’s so important to replace a missing tooth, and the best way to do that is with a dental implant. Dr. Jirik believes implants are far and away from the best method for replacing a missing tooth or a couple of teeth, or for anchoring larger restorations like bridges. Because implants are anchored into the jawbone, just as a natural tooth is, they feel and function exactly like a natural tooth.
But to place the implant base, the patient needs to have sufficient bone mass to adequately anchor the implant. If the patient has been missing the tooth for some time, there may no longer be enough bone mass. For these patients, Dr. Jirik will place bone grafts to encourage new bone mass to form. This happens before the implant is placed.
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What is a bone graft?
A dental bone graft is a procedure that replaces missing bone in your jaw with bone grafting material to encourage new bone to regenerate. As the natural bone grows, it absorbs the graft material, resulting in a fully integrated region of new bone.
There are four different materials used for bone grafts:
- Autografts — Tissue comes from the patient’s own body, usually the chin, shin, or hip.
- Allografts — Tissue comes from a human donor, usually cadaver bone.
- Xenografts — Tissue comes from the inorganic portion of animal bones, typically cows.
- Alloplasts — These grafts are created from hydroxyapatite, a naturally occurring mineral in bone.
How is bone grafting performed?
Most patients assume these must be very involved procedures with Dr. Jirik. Actually, the process is quite straightforward. These treatments are usually done with the patient under only local anesthesia. The first step is to make a small incision in the gum tissue to gain access to the jawbone. To prepare for implant placement, the graft material (options discussed above) will usually be placed in the socket formerly occupied by the natural tooth root. After the graft material is placed in the tooth socket, it is covered with a collagen membrane and the incision is closed.
Now we wait. Your body initiates the building of new bone and this takes several months. As this process progresses, your body replaces the bone graft material with new bone.
If you have more minimal bone loss and Dr. Jirik believes you have an adequate bone mass to take an implant, he may insert bone graft material at the same time he is placing the implant base into your jaw. Then your jaw will create a new bone mass at the same time it is growing around the implant.
Who is a candidate for bone grafting?
If you’ve had long-term gum disease, the odds are you’ve lost bone mass in your jaw. Also, even if your gums are healthy but you’ve been missing a tooth or teeth for a long period of time, bone mass under the gaps has likely resorbed. If this has happened, you’re going to need bone grafting to rebuild bone mass in order to place dental implants. These are the general conditions where a person would need grafting:
- Dental implants — As explained above, grafts rebuild bone to adequately anchor and support dental implants.
- Tooth extractions — For adult tooth extractions, it is common for the dentist or oral surgeon to place bone-grafting material down in the tooth socket after a tooth has been removed. This ensures that, should the patient want to replace the tooth with an implant down the road, there will be adequate bone mass.
- To save teeth — When a person has severe periodontal disease, the teeth can become loose and there is a risk of losing multiple teeth. Bone grafting can be done around the teeth to increase bone and support the teeth.
How long does a bone graft procedure take?
There are two answers to this question. When Dr. Jirik makes a small incision to access the jawbone, places the bone graft material into the socket of the former tooth root, and closes the incision, this usually takes from 45 to 90 minutes. The secondary time period is waiting for the transplanted material to grow enough new bone to support a dental implant. The body slowly replaces the grafting material with new bone. This process varies depending upon the patient, but typically takes from 3 to 6 months.
What should I expect during my recovery from bone grafting?
You may experience some soreness in the area of the bone graft, but it is not acute and can be managed with over-the-counter pain medication. The small incision to access the bone heals quickly, as long as you’re not a smoker. Discomfort only lasts a day or two.
Schedule Your Consultation Today
If you're interested in learning more about bone grafting please contact us for a consultation at 501-843-9561 or fill out our contact us form. We will discuss your needs and concerns, and determine your best course of action.