While we often think of bones as rigid and unchanging dense materials in our body, the fact is that they are continually changing. Bones always undergo the process of remodeling, where old bone is replaced by new stronger bone. New bone cells are deposited while the old bone cells are recycled. Sometimes, this process can result in damage or weakening of the bones. This is especially true for 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. This 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. Modern medicine has been able to help restore this bone loss through bone grafting. This 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. A small incision is made in the gums, and then grafting material is added through the incision to the bones. The grafting material is composed of minerals that trigger your body to grow new bone. Over time, your body will deposit and build bone by itself. The grafting material comes in a variety of different forms. It can come as a powder, granules, or a gel that can be inserted through a syringe. This material comes from an animal, human, or even yourself. A laboratory processes this material to ensure that it is clean and sterile. Once the bone graft has been placed, it is usually 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. These include:
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.
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.