Bone grafting is a surgical procedure that replaces missing bone in your jaw. With today’s technology it has become a routine, predictable, and minimally invasive intervention that can be managed quite easily in our office setting.
The roots of your teeth are surrounded by bone. It is important to understand that your jawbone’s only purpose in the human body is to hold teeth in place. The reason a jaw has the amount of bone that it does is because of the presence of existing teeth and the fact that those teeth are continuously being used. Once a tooth is removed, the area around it erodes until it creates a hollow rut. This is why your grandparents’ dentures would flop about in their mouths when they would eat or talk- because the bone was receding due to lack of use.
When a tooth is lost, the body quickly begins to resorb the bone unless it is immediately replaced with either another tooth, an implant, or a “ridge preservation” (socket graft). Essentially, a bone graft serves as a “biological placeholder,” acting more like a tent pole to hold the surrounding bone up and give it the functional requirements needed to prevent the surrounding tissue from collapsing inward.
Bone generally has the ability to regenerate completely, but requires some sort of ‘scaffold’ on which to do so. The graft (demineralized, sterile bone granules look a lot like coarse sand) is packed into the tooth’s socket immediately after an extraction. It is covered with a protective collagen membrane, and a couple of stitches are used to close the socket. This procedure is simple and does not add to recovery time. Over the next several weeks the bone will fill up the tooth socket and preserve the bone height long enough to have the area restored. Depending on the size of the tooth that is extracted, a ridge graft needs between 3 and 6 months to take.
Your jaw and other facial bones support both skin and muscle – which are responsible for the overall shape of your face. Without the support of underlying bone, your face can look prematurely aged, which is generally not the look that most people are going for!