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What is a Bone Graft and Why Would I Need One?

What is a Bone Graft and Why Would I Need One?


No matter how well you brush your teeth, your smile relies on healthy gums and bone to keep your teeth where they ought to be. If you lose bone support, your teeth can become mobile and fall out.

Adding Bone Back to Your Jaws

Sometimes it’s necessary to graft bone back into your jaws, around your teeth. A graft can be natural or synthetic. Some people have bone grafted from their own bodies, while others opt for sterilized donor bone. Synthetic bone options contain small fibers that stimulate new bone growth around them, integrating themselves with your jaw.

Why Are Bone Grafts Necessary?

If you need to ensure the preservation of a tooth or require additional dental work, your bone graft may be part of the recommended care plan. Here are a few examples of when a dentist may recommend a graft:

After an Extraction: Losing a tooth causes the bone around the existing socket to resorb or shrink away. This can jeopardize the stability of neighboring teeth. Your dentist will want to place the graft on the same day as your extraction. Even if you are planning to replace the extracted tooth with a dental implant, a graft may be needed to boost bone development at the site of the implant placement.

With Dental Implants: In most cases, grafting is associated with implant treatment. This is because many people go without their teeth for quite some time before having implant surgery. If they have been wearing a denture, they may see significant bone loss take place by the time they are ready to invest in the implant therapy.

Implants are artificial teeth that rest in your jaw the same way a natural tooth does. As such, they require enough bone to hold them in place. While the titanium surface of an implant encourages new bone growth, there may be situations that call for adding a graft due to existing bone loss. The graft combined with the titanium surface of the implant root can stimulate extra bone development for added security.

When implants are placed in the upper arch, sinus lift surgery may be necessary. Adding a bone graft ensures that there is thick enough bone in the upper arch to install the implant. Otherwise, there would be a risk of the implant accidentally puncturing the soft lining of your sinus cavity. Grafts add depth to the bone to prevent this from happening.

In Areas of Periodontal Disease: Gum disease is one of the leading causes of tooth and bone loss. Even once the bacteria has been removed and infection halted, bone loss remains. This can jeopardize the stability of teeth, causing mobility and shifting throughout your smile. Instead of allowing this chain reaction to occur, your dentist may want to place a bone graft in specific areas of moderate to advanced bone loss.

Even if you don’t notice symptoms of gum disease, bone loss may be visible to your dentist or hygienist. Be sure to ask during your exam if there are any deep “pockets” around your teeth, or visible bone loss on your x-rays.

What to Expect

Most bone grafts are done alongside other surgeries or treatment. As such, you don’t have to plan for any surprising discomfort. It is important to note that it is fairly common for some people’s bodies to reject their bone graft…even if the bone is from their own body. Following your dentist’s home care instructions (such as avoiding tobacco products and how to clean the surgical sites) are essential.

It takes time to see whether or not the graft is a success. Your dentist will take x-rays of the area to see if new bone has grown around the graft or if the area appears denser on the radiograph than it did on the previous set. This process can take several months before your new bone will start to fuse and integrate with the surrounding bony structures in your jaw.

As far as pricing goes, a simple graft of synthetic or donor bone is usually much more affordable than undergoing surgery to graft bone from another part of your own body.

Traditional dental insurance typically covers bone grafts if they are medically necessary, but rarely covers dental implants or related procedures. Dental saving plans, on the other hand, often do cover implants. You should also be aware that the cost of one bone graft (up to $1100 for an artificial bone graft, up to $3000 when using your own bone) can consume much or all of dental insurance’s annual spending limit. If so, consider purchasing a dental savings plan to supplement your insurance coverage.


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