Bone loss occurs in the jawbone when one or more teeth are missing as a result of trauma, decay, or injury. The jawbone depends on stimulation from the teeth and roots and will deteriorate without this stimulation. Over time, the bone can deteriorate to a point where bone mass is insufficient for placing dental implants. If you are having implants placed, bone grafting may first be necessary to build up enough bone to support the implant.
Bone grafting is a procedure that replaces or augments deteriorated bone. There are three types of bone grafts: autogenous grafts, allografts, and xenografts.
Bone Grafting Procedure
In the beginning of the procedure, local anesthesia is administered to numb the harvest (in autogenous procedures) and transplant sites. The dentist makes an incision in the gums to view the area in need of augmentation. This helps determine the amount of bone that should be harvested.
If autogenous grafting has been selected, the dentist will make a second incision in the gums below the lower front teeth to expose the chin bone, which is the harvesting site. A portion of the bone, as determined by the amount of tissue required for augmentation, will be removed along with any bone marrow. The removal site is then closed with sutures.
The harvested bone, whether from the patient or an outside source, is then attached to the deteriorated bone with small titanium screws. The dentist may place a mixture of bone marrow and grafting material around bone to assist and expedite healing. Once the new tissue is applied the transplant incision is closed with sutures.
Post-operative antibiotics and pain medication are generally prescribed and the patient is asked to follow a soft foods diet. The graft will take anywhere from six to nine months to heal and dental implants can only be placed once the graft is completely healed.