Perhaps you have just learned that you can get a dental implant to replace your missing tooth! You are thrilled that there’s a way you can finally get your smile back! But then you learn that the bone in that area of your jaw is too weak, or maybe even missing and so there’s nothing to which the implant can be anchored. Now what? How can an implant be anchored in weak or nonexistent bone? Simply stated, it can’t. However what if new bone could be created? Well it can, and Dr. Loschiavo does just that with bone grafting.
What exactly is bone grafting?
Bone grafting is a surgical procedure which replaces weak or missing bone with synthetic or non-synthetic bone material. The granular material is mixed with a liquid to form a putty-like substance. This mixture can be synthetic bone material, human bone or a combination of the two. After the area in the jaw bone is prepared and cleaned, Dr. Loschiavo places the bone replacement “putty” and shapes it to the correct height and width. Once in place, a membrane can be placed over it to hold the shape. Over time the graft will actually stimulate the body to grow new bone cells!
What material is used to replace bone?
Back in the early eighties, the synthetic material hydroxyapatite (HA) was virtually the only material used in bone grafting. HA and other newer types of synthetic bone materials create a strong platform and stimulate our body’s bone cells to grow and adhere to it. While synthetic materials are still widely used, there is also another option available these days. Advances in research have made it possible to use actual human bone as a non-synthetic alternative. Human bone, either highly sterilized from bone banks or bone from the patient’s own body, not only stimulates the body to grow new bone around the graft but, unlike HA, also gets resorbed (dissolved) and is eventually replaced by the patient’s own bone cells. This makes natural human bone an excellent choice when an implant is to be placed since the body can integrate it so well.
Why would I need bone grafting?
As mentioned, there are times when a dental implant could replace a missing tooth but there’s not enough bone to support it. This bone loss could be due to trauma, periodontal disease, or because a tooth has been missing for an extended time and the supportive bone structure has dissolved. Folks with bridges and dentures are especially prone to this type of bone deterioration since there is no tooth in place to continually stimulate bone growth.
If a tooth needs to be extracted, bone grafting will help maintain the shape of the gum/jawbone thus minimizing the sunken face appearance which can develop, and lays the foundation if the patient wants a dental implant down the road. Building up the area of the missing or weakened bone to the correct height, width, and shape will allow a sturdy platform to which the implant can then be anchored.
How long does bone grafting take?
The bone grafting procedure itself takes Dr. Loschiavo only about 20 to 60 minutes to complete. This varies of course on the size and location of the needed graft and whether a tooth first needs to be extracted, but the procedure can generally be performed all in one visit. If the patient plans to eventually get a dental implant, the bone graft needs to be in place about 3-4 months to allow the graft to integrate into the body before an implant can be anchored.
This bone grafting description was published by Dr Charles Loschiavo, an oral surgeon in Tucson, AZ.