Are you having dental pain or gum disease? Have you lost an adult tooth? Dealing with dental health issues is never easy, and considering surgical options may feel like a last resort.
Yet letting your health issues go unchecked may be worse than the minor pain associated with bone grafting surgery. We’ve put together an overview to help you understand what’s involved and how you can benefit from a bone graft.
Keep reading to find out all the ways this procedure can help with your dental health.
Do You Need a Bone Graft?
In dental health, a bone graft is actually a fairly minor procedure. The dentist makes a small incision in the gum and then grafts bone to your existing jawbone. Then your body builds up bone cells around the graft, creating just what you need.
If you’ve lost a tooth as an adult or need to preserve the jawbone, a bone graft can help. You may also need a bone graft if you’ve had gum disease or lost some of your jaw structure.
If a tooth is missing, the bone around your remaining teeth can shrink or disappear. It can affect the way your face appears, giving a sagging appearance or restructuring of the face. For both dental health and aesthetic reasons, you may need a bone graft.
A bone graft can help your body create a better base for an implant to take hold. More than half of implant patients usually need a bone graft before the implant.
How Does It Work?
Dentists get bone for the graft from many places. They can use your own bone, and harvest it from another place on your body (like a hip). This is called an autograft, and it does complicate the recovery a little because you have two surgeries to heal from.
There are also these ways to get bone material:
- Bioglass or synthetic material like calcium phosphate (Alloplast)
- Bone from a cadaver (Allograft)
- Bone from an animal, like a pig or cow (Xenograft)
Before use in a procedure, the bone is cleaned and prepped for surgery. It’s safe to use in your body. Often patients prefer the dentist use one of these materials so they don’t have to have a second incision somewhere.
However, autografts are the most commonplace because they promote faster healing and help your body form new bone better than other materials.
Benefits of a Bone Graft
If you’re wondering whether this surgery is worth it, reviewing the benefits can help you decide.
One of the best things about a dental bone graft is that you prevent long-term health issues. When you lose a tooth or have one removed, you can lose up to half your bone density, meaning it affects your ability to chew and speak. With a bone graft, you can prevent the reduction in bone structure and prevent those major health issues.
Bone grafts can also help keep your aesthetic structure. When your jawline deteriorates, you don’t look like yourself anymore, and you can even start to look sick or deformed. With a bone graft, you can keep the shape of your face and your natural aesthetic.
Losing jawbone density can also cause chronic pain and muscle atrophy. With a bone graft, you don’t have to worry about future pain and weak jaw muscles.
Another benefit is that you’re able to have dental implants. These behave like natural teeth and last a lifetime, and they also keep adjacent teeth stable.
Types of Bone Grafting
There are three types of dental bone graft. If you’re missing teeth on the upper jaw in the back, your body may try to compensate. The sinuses will reach down to fill the gap, but with a sinus lift, the bone graft fills the tooth gap and prevents this.
When you have serious bone loss, usually from advanced gum disease, you may need a large graft. In this case, your dentist can take bone from the back of your jaw, often where your wisdom teeth were. Then they use the bone for a block bone graft.
Before the dentist can place the implant, they often have to remove a tooth. If that’s the case, they can place the bone graft at the same time as the removal and totally prevent any loss of bone that happens when a tooth is missing. This type of graft is called a socket graft.
The Healing Process
Healing from jawbone issues and corrective surgeries like bone grafting and jawbone preservation can take a little time. The whole surgery only takes around two hours, and then you’ll have some pain when the anesthetic wears off. Usually the pain is manageable with over-the-counter medication.
At home, you can care for the bone graft with your diet. Don’t drink any hot liquids, and don’t eat hard or crunchy foods. During the first few days you’ll want bland foods that are soft and gentle on your mouth.
You’ll also use an ice pack to help reduce swelling and pain. You’ll sleep with your head elevated so that blood doesn’t pool at the incision site. This also prevents extra swelling.
Your dentist will recommend reduced physical activity, which can harm the graft site. You may have trouble speaking at first.
The first week or so, you’ll have minor pain, but after that week it shouldn’t feel as uncomfortable. It only takes a few weeks for your jaw to feel normal again, or mostly normal. Yet your jaw needs several months to build up the bone around the graft.
During the next few months, you’ll have checkups to ensure you’re healing well. Your dentist will take x-rays to see how the bone graft is doing and whether you’re building a proper base for your implant.
If you want to keep your dental health on track, bone grafting may be the next step. Ask your dentist whether this is the right procedure to help with your needs.
It’s natural to have any fears or anxiety about this procedure, and we can help. At Jenkins, Morrow & Gayheart Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, we want you to feel at ease. Contact us today so we can answer any questions you have.