What Should You Know About Dental Bone Grafting?

If you have lost a tooth or have advanced gum disease dental bone graft is an option, it will start to tear down the jawbone that holds your teeth in place, causing bone loss and gum recession. In such cases, your gum disease specialist or dentist may suggest a bone graft to finally get the healthy smile you deserve. It might sound scary and uncomfortable but this is actually a relatively minor dental procedure performed by a dental surgeon when your jaw bone is small or weak. The procedure is commonly performed prior to other dental procedures, such as implant placement in an area where the jawbone has been harmed or when bone loss is affecting the nearby teeth.

What Exactly are Dental Bone Grafts?

Dental bone grafting is a highly recommended surgical dental procedure where the weakened or missing bone in your jaw gets replaced with a bone graft material, helping to rebuild or repair the lost bone. It is an extremely common procedure and is usually recommended for patients who have severe gum disease and have lost one or more adult teeth. Both of these conditions can cause deterioration of the bone in the jaw. This dental approach is pretty predictable, pain-free, and has impressively high success rates.

What to Expect during the Procedure?

During the procedure, the patient receives anesthesia to temporarily numb the area. After that, the dental surgeon will make an incision into the skin and fold it back to access the bone that needed a bone graft. The infected gum tissue and bone will be carefully cleaned. A bone graft will be put in the place to restore the normal shape of the jaw. There are different types of materials that may be used for grafting. After the graft is inserted into the site, the tissue is closed with the stitches by the surgeon.

What are the Types of Dental Bone Grafts?

As mentioned, dental bone grafting is a minor surgical procedure to fix or modify bones by replacing and regenerating lost jaw bone, helping to restore proper facial contour. Types of dental bone grafts differ from one another depending on the material used :  

  • Autograft: It is a bone graft done using your own bone, usually taken from the hip bone or back of the jaw.
  • Allograft: Here the bone grafting material is sourced from another person, usually a human donor. Most of the patients typically do not prefer to use allografts, but dental professionals use them widely today. 
  • Xenograft: The bone here is obtained from the inorganic parts of animal bones, usually cows or pigs.
  • Alloplast: This is the latest kind of bone graft that is entirely artificial and developed from synthetic material that contains phosphorus, calcium,  and hydroxyapatite.

A dental professional will explain to you the advantages and disadvantages of the different materials and grafting options. Most specialists prefer to use the autograft option of taking bone from the patient’s body because this promotes improved healing and faster new bone formation.

Bone Graft Aftercare and Healing Process

Patients are given general anesthesia to numb the surgical zone and put them into a deep sleep before a bone graft surgery. This is done to ensure that they do not feel anything during the surgery. But, after a few hours, anesthesia wears off.  The specialist will recommend you to eat soft foods and avoid hot liquids for a specific time period, to prevent the risk of damaging the stitches. Post-surgical pain and discomfort is normal but should diminish after a day or two. It generally needs two to three months and sometimes a long time to entirely heal and get ready for the dental implant procedure.

What are the Risks of Bone Grafting?

A dental bone graft procedure is generally a is a low-risk procedure,  but it does have a few rare risks including :

  • Blood loss and swelling of the gums
  • Reactions  or complications from anesthesia
  • Difficulty speaking, eating or chewing
  • Issues with bone healing
  • Scarring
  • Blood clotting and infection
  • Nerve damage
  • Infection from the donated bone (it is very rare)

These are some of the common side effects that all patients experience four to five days after surgery.

Are you a Suitable Candidate for a Dental Bone Graft?

As discussed above, a patient who has experienced a loss of jawbone density may be a good candidate for a dental bone grafting procedure. As long as someone is in good general health he or she should have no issue having the procedure done.  But, not everyone is a good dental bone grafting candidate. An individual is not a suitable candidate for the procedure if he or she:

  • Expecting and/or nursing
  • Have immune deficiencies
  • Have any active dental infections
  • Is undergoing a health treatment that involves chemotherapy and radiation

Can Bone Grafting Fail?

While the success rate of dental bone graft procedures is pretty impressive, failure may occur especially among patients who smoke regularly or have certain long-term medical conditions. A number of symptoms may indicate that your bone grafting has not been successful. Some common signs of procedure failure include:

  • Acute pain or prolonged swelling on gums that worsens after the first week.
  • A large volume of leakages from the bone graft site.
  • Gum recession
  • No bone growth

These were signs of early failure of grafting, but sometimes the failure of the procedure can occur six to eight months after surgery. However, it is important to keep in mind that these complications are very rare and can occur in fewer than 1% of dental patients.

Conclusion

As you can see, there is nothing to be worried about. Dental bone grafting is a simple procedure that a patient will mostly recover from in a few weeks, even though it takes a longer time for the regrowth of jaw bone!