Bone grafting is a surgical procedure used to supplement existing bone tissue that’s become thin or atrophied as a result of infection or disease or to supplement jaw bone tissue that’s naturally thin. Grafting is often performed before a dental implant to ensure the jaw has sufficient bone tissue to support the implant and to keep it secure, especially when an implant is being placed years after the tooth was lost. It can also be used to treat some types of very severe gum disease where resulting bone loss can contribute to tooth loss. Once the graft is put in place, it will fuse with the existing bone over time, a process called osseointegration.
That depends on how much bone has been lost since the tooth was lost and whether an infection is or was present that could have caused bone loss. Before implant placement, x-rays will be taken to determine if a bone graft will be needed. In most cases, bone grafting and implant post placement can be performed during the same procedure.
Often, a bone graft can be taken from elsewhere in the patient’s mouth (an autologous graft). Only a small amount of tissue will be needed to restore a single site. Sometimes, sterile bone tissue will be obtained from a tissue bank and used to perform the graft procedure. Synthetic materials may also be used in some cases.
Bone grafting may be performed using sedation to prevent discomfort. During the procedure, a small incision is made into the gum tissue to expose the underlying bone. The graft will be placed against the bone, and the tissue will be sutured closed with very small stitches. If an autologous graft is being used, the bone tissue will be removed first.
Most patients experience little discomfort afterward. Prescription and over-the-counter pain medications and ice packs can be used as needed to alleviate any discomfort. Sedation will cause drowsiness for several hours after the procedure.
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