If you have missing teeth, one of the best options for replacement is a dental implant. However, complications may arise if your jaw does not have enough bone mass or density to support an implant. This, however, can easily be solved through another oral surgical procedure: bone grafting. Not only will you be able to have your tooth replaced with an implant, but your jaw will look better, be stronger, and operate more fully.
What Exactly is Bone Grafting?
During bone grafting, new bone is placed into the already-existing bone as a support system. It holds up the existing tissues until the body recognizes it as its own, absorbs it, and replaces it with naturally-produced bone.
Where Does the Bone Come From?
There are a variety of possible donors for this bone, but the preferred candidate is you! As your body already knows and loves your own bones, there are fewer possible complications and it is more likely that the graft will be accepted and quickly if your own bones are used.
In other cases, especially if the needed graft is very small, bones can come from other donors, such as a tissue bank, fake bone substitute, or even animals. Cow bone is especially popular for dental implants. These cow bones are processed so that they are sterile and contain only the natural mineral content. There should be no organic material, making it easier for your body to eventually be fooled into accepting it as its own.
When Should You Receive a Bone Graft?
Although it might seem more intuitive to have a graft during the implant surgery, it is actually better to have it done beforehand. In best case scenarios, the graft will actually be done long before, when the original tooth is pulled. After extraction, the tooth socket will be filled with bone shavings to help prevent the loss of bone mass.
If your tooth was extracted a long time ago and you are just now looking to have implants put in, a separate surgery will be done to fill the jaw with the above-mentioned bone shavings. It will take a few months for the jaw to accept the graft and heal, but soon you will have a jaw strong enough to hold dental implants.