Dental bone grafting sounds like one of the scariest procedures that an oral surgeon can perform, but it isn't as bad as it sounds. Bone grafting allows oral surgeons to provide permanent dental implants in places where the jawbone would normally be too deteriorated to support them. Here is an explanation of the causes of jawbone loss and the techniques used in modern dental bone grafting.

Causes of Bone Loss

Bone grafts are typically used in cases where a patient has lost one or more teeth and the underlying jawbone has degenerated as a result. Because dental implants are held in place by the process of osseointegration, bone grafts are often necessary to provide proper support for the new implants. Degeneration is usually caused by bacteria in the mouth that invade the socket when a tooth has been removed, causing inflammation in the jawbone. The body's immune system will slowly destroy the bone over time in an attempt to fight the bacteria.

In some cases, mechanical pressures (or lack thereof) can cause jawbone loss rather than bacterial degradation. If you have lost a tooth from trauma, the jawbone no longer has a biting surface to stimulate bone growth, and the bone will begin to degrade. If you have a misaligned jaw and one or more teeth do not have opposing teeth to apply pressure to them, they can over erupt and cause jawbone degradation.

Donor Sites

The oral surgeon has a few options to choose from when in need of material to replace a degraded jaw bone. The patient's bone will always be best. Your own bone has the lowest chance of being rejected by the surrounding bone and causing inflammation, and will begin to regrow new bone material faster. Common donor sites on the patient's body are other healthy parts of the jaw bone, the tibia, and even the pelvic bone.

In other cases where grafting the patient's own bone is not an option, the surgeon may choose to use sterilized cadaver bone, cow bone, or even artificial bone. Artificial bone can be made from ceramics, metal, or hydrogels that allow the bone to be flexible. While artificial bone will not typically promote new bone growth as well as natural bone, the surgeon can graft as much artificial bone as is needed to support the implant without having to wait for new bone growth.

Types of Bone Graft

Dental bone grafts can be grouped into one of two categories: socket grafts and block bone grafts. In socket grafts, the jawbone has only experienced minor to moderate degradation and can be repaired by filling the tooth socket with granular bone. Filling the socket with bone supports the surrounding bone in the same way that a normal tooth would, and the granular bone is gradually integrated into the living bone of the jawbone. Over time, the bone will solidify and be strong enough to support an implant.

Block bone grafts are necessary when significant portions of the jawbone have deteriorated, such as when two or more adjacent teeth have been lost. The patient's own bone is almost always used for this procedure, typically from the jawbone behind the third molar. A small plate of bone is secured to the deteriorated site using screws and overlaid with granular bone. Within a few months, the bone will heal and be ready to support multiple implants.

Bone grafting has become one of the most beneficial procedures in reconstructive dentistry. No matter how long you have been missing teeth, an oral surgeon can typically replace them by using a combination of bone grafting and titanium implants. Go to websites and talk to your dentist about bone grafting as an option for restoring your healthy smile.