A dental bone graft is necessary when a patient’s jawbone is either not dense enough or doesn’t have enough volume to support a recommended dental procedure. Bone loss typically occurs when gum disease or the loss of one or more adult teeth causes the bone to be resorted into the body. If you’re considering dental implants, our Surrey dentists can tell you whether you have enough bone density to support them or if you might need a bone graft. Here’s how a bone graft solves the problem.

Reasons to Get a Bone Graft

There are many reasons why patients might need a bone graft. Without enough bone mass, it’s impossible to supply crowns, dental implants, or even dentures in some cases, because there’s an insufficient foundation for them to rest on or fuse with. You’re a candidate for this procedure if you:

  1. Need implants to replace missing teeth. A 2016 survey of almost 800 dental implant patients showed more than half needed bone grafting to provide a strong enough base for the implant.
  2. Have problems with eating and speaking caused by loss of bone due to absent teeth or gum disease. Even if you aren’t getting implants, a dental bone graft might be necessary to support a section of your jaw that has deteriorated to the point of affecting the way you bite, chew, or speak.
  3. Find your appearance affected by bone loss. This can cause your face to look shorter than before, with your lower jaw protruding forwards. This makes the lips and facial muscles sag, and the skin appears more wrinkled.

A bone graft helps stabilize your jaw, improve your muscle tone, and prevent the long-term health complications bone loss can cause, such as heart disease and dementia.

How Bone Grafts Work

During a dental bone graft, the surgeon inserts a new section of bone material in the place where the jawbone needs to heal or join. The cells inside the new bone then fuse with the existing bone, and the sections grow together. The new bone comes from one of four primary sources, which are:

  • Your own body. This is called an Auto graft and usually uses a tiny section of bone taken from your hip, tibia (lower leg bone), or jaw.
  • Another body. This is called an Allograft, which uses bone from a different person’s body (usually a cadaver).
  • Another species. This method is called a Xenograft, and it means using bone taken from another species such as a cow, pig, or a piece of coral.
  • Synthetic bone.This option is known as an Alloplast, which uses synthetic material such as calcium phosphate or calcium sodium phosphorylate (Bio-glass).

Most oral surgeons prefer to use the auto graft option of taking bone from your own body because this promotes better healing and the faster formation of new bone.

The Bone Graft Procedure

You’ll typically have a general anesthetic for dental bone graft surgery, so you’ll be required to avoid eating or drinking for 8 to 12 hours beforehand. Check with your surgeon about the medication you take, because you might need to stop taking any blood thinners a few days before to avoid the risk of excess bleeding. Arrange for someone to take you home after the surgery because you will still be groggy after the anesthetic.

On the day of surgery, you’ll receive the dental sedation or anesthesia you’ve agreed to. Once you’re ready, a dental technician will clean the target area. The surgeon will make an incision in the gum, separate it from the jawbone, and then place the new bone material between two sections of bone that need to grow together. A dis-solvable adhesive, a membrane, or special screws secure the pieces of bone together until they fuse, and the incision is sewn up to help it heal.

Bone Graft Aftercare

You’ll probably go home with gauze packing around the incision in your mouth, and the surgeon will give you instructions for changing the dressing over the next 24 hours. You should get a prescription for antibiotics to prevent infection and possibly one for pain relievers.

Once you get home, applying ice packs to the outside of your face will help you reduce the pain and swelling. Sleep with your head elevated for a couple of nights to prevent blood pooling around the wound.

Eat soft foods, avoid hot liquids, and don’t engage in strenuous physical activity for a few days, to prevent the risk of damaging the stitches and reopening the incision.

The Take-Away

A dental bone graft is a standard procedure that is safe and has few risks of side effects or complications. It’s recommended to help prevent long-term health problems linked to tooth loss and gum disease and support restorative dentistry options that preserve your overall health.

If you need more information on a dental bone graft, whether it’s for a single implant or a full mouth reconstruction, click here or call us at 604-593-7866 to schedule a consultation and discuss your needs.

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