What is a Bone Graft and Why Do I need it?

patient receiving bone grafting exam

Hey everyone, this is another common question that I get. You need a tooth extracted and the dentist has proposed a dental bone graft in the extraction site. So what is a bone graft? And why do you need it?

Ok, so first any time a tooth is removed the extraction site will and should heal on its own. The socket site will heal from the bottom up. The extraction site will develop a blood clot in the extraction socket and that will over time slowly turn over into bone. The issue arises with letting the body heal normally without intervention is that studies show that bone loss will occur and the volume of bone available, once healing completes, will have shrunk. Obviously, this is patient dependent, however, this volumetric shrinkage of bone has been well researched. If the bone shrinks, ultimately this could mean that there is no adequate bone available to place a dental implant or a restorative prosthesis. Patients who have gone without teeth for a long period of time experience this issue. It can be easily witnessed in patients that have been in dentures for an extended period of time (years to decades) and appear with a “sunken” face.

Jaw Bone Resorption

The diagram below outlines this exact phenomenon.

Graphic of Jaw Resorption at our Scottsdale, AZ

Bone Grafting Process

By placing bone in the extraction site at the time of surgery, we add back the volume immediately and secure and solid foundation of boney material as a scaffold to produce additional bone around. In short, we trick the body into believing something is there and help aid the body in its recovery.

In most cases, the absolute best time to receive a bone graft is when the tooth is extracted. Sometimes this is not possible due to the damage and the surgery site will need to be revisited for a second surgery. Typically bone grafts that require second surgeries or that are done after teeth have been extracted are sinus lifts, horizontal and vertical bone graft augmentations to create sufficient height and width for a dental implant. We will discuss these procedures in upcoming posts.

Typically having a tooth extracted and grafted at the time of surgery can reduce the need for additional graft procedures down the road. Second stage bone grafts and augmentations usually more complicated and require more bone material and technical reconstructive procedures to rebuild the deficient sites and in turn, are more costly procedures to perform.

Getting a bone graft is a relatively straight forward procedure where when the tooth is removed bone, or a bone substitute is placed in the dental extraction site. If major damage has occurred your dental surgeon may choose to place a resorbable or non-resorbable membrane to aid in the healing process. A period of 3-5 months is allowed to pass where the surgical site has sufficient time to heal. After the healing process has completed your dental surgeon is able to evaluate the site and identify whether the bone is ready for a dental implant or other restorative solution.

Here is a diagram outline the Bone Grafting Process

Diagram of bone grafting process in Scottsdale, AZ

Why is it important to have a tooth or a dental implant stimulating the bone? It’s important to have a dental implant or tooth stimulate the bone because our bodies have used it or lose it tendency. Simply the forces placed on the jawbone through chewing and function stimulate the bone and its biological need to hang around. Just like if we don’t use our muscles they will waste or atrophy over time. By graft and having the adequate foundation and then stimulating the bone through function we will reduce the amount of atrophy that can occur and set the patient up for great long-term success.

Contact Our Scottsdale AZ Dental Clinic

Before getting your tooth extracted or if you are in the process of evaluating your teeth for dental grafts or dental implants, reach out to Scottsdale Dental Solutions at 480-536-9050 for a complimentary consultation and evaluation or if you have any questions regarding the procedure.

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