You probably already know that a great smile requires healthy teeth, but did you know that healthy gums and a healthy jaw bone are also part of that equation? After all, the jaw bone holds the teeth in place. If a tooth is lost as a result of periodontal (gum) disease or caries (cavities) and that empty space isn’t taken care of, the jaw bone can start to recede. If you later want to replace that missing tooth with a dental implant, denture, or partial, you won’t have the bone structure to support it. Bone grafting is the procedure commonly used to reconstruct this bone structure.
You can have bone grafted directly after having a tooth extracted. To fill the extraction site and preserve the bone from resorbing, your dentist will pack the empty tooth socket with bone from a donor and may cover the area with a thin membrane and a few sutures to hold the graft in place. You may have to return the next day for a post-op check-up, then another one about a week after that. For a partial or full denture, the site will need to heal for four to six weeks, but if you want a more natural-looking and longer-lasting solution, the treatment for a dental implant can start about 4 to 6 months after the bone graft.
If the tooth (or teeth) has been missing for a while, the bone may already have resorbed. In that case, the dentist will take a portion of the bone from another section of your mouth or body and combine it with donor bone to place it on the site that needs rebuilding.
If there is extensive bone loss, either from periodontal disease or because the teeth have been missing for a long time, a larger bone graft will be needed. In this case, a combination of bone materials will be used for the graft, including your own bone, donor bone, an animal bone, or a synthetic bone substitute. The graft will attach to the natural bone and create a base for new bone cells to grow.
Not replacing a missing tooth can end up leading to occlusion (bite) problems, cavities, or periodontal disease. Utilizing a bone graft to rebuild the jaw bone gives you more options on how to replace that tooth or teeth. A restorative dental implant can last a lifetime and looks and feels like a natural tooth. It also helps to preserve the bone and maintains the jaw frame to prevent sagging, which can make you look older. Bone grafting can aid dentures as well, by building up the alveolar ridge to create a snugger fit. Bone grafting can help ensure that you have a dental restoration that not only looks natural but fits and feels natural as well.
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