Remember when Grandma's dentures used to have that magical floating ability when she ate? Dentures used to be commonplace when tooth loss started. Gum disease is a common cause of tooth loss that resulting from a bacterial buildup. As teeth begin to weaken, the bone at the root of the tooth starts to disappear. This bone is crucial in anchoring the tooth to the jawbone. When the time comes to replace the loss of teeth, the supporting is often so eroded it won't support a new implant.

Bone grafting has been common since to replace the lost bone tissue. Initially, dental surgeons had to use large quantities of the patient's bone, called an autogenous graft, to replace the lost bone. Now dental surgeons use xenografts which use bovine bone. Bones harvested from the cow go through a sterilization phase and remove all organic material until only the mineral content remains.

Xenografts act as a placeholder where the original jawbone used to be. The new bone serves as a temporary support to hold up surrounding tissues. Following the placement, a process called “guided tissue regeneration” tricks the body into believing the graft is natural bone. This process will allow the body to absorb it over time and replace it with its natural bone.

Your dental surgeon may recommend one or a combination of three of the most common dental bone grafts: The Alveolar Ridge Preservation Graft, the Autogenous Ramus/Chin Graft, and the Subantral Graft.

Alveolar Ridge Preservation Graft

Otherwise known as a "socket graft", an alveolar ridge preservation graft fills the void left by an extraction of a tooth. After the removal takes place, the socket graft allows the existing bone to absorb and replace it. The absorb and replace process usually takes 3-6 months which means an immediate dental implant isn't an option until the area has healed.

Autogenous Ramus/Chin Graft

Commonly called the “block bone graft”, this graft is the best option when the bone loss is too large and needs more than an alveolar ridge preservation graft can provide. The procedure requires a dental surgeon to remove about a one centimeter square from either the lower jaw or the chin to fill the need. It will take about four months to heal once it's closed.

Subantral Graft

The subantral graft, or sinus lift procedure, involves creating a small area in the sinus where Bovine bone is inserted. The sinus has the effect of being pushed up and restores structure while the graft heals. The healing process can take up to 6-9 months, but depending on the amount and condition of the bone, an immediate dental implant may be available.

As imagined, these procedures have disadvantages. Side effects such as excessive bleeding, post-op pain, swelling, further bone loss, and infection are all risks that come along with any surgery. Technological advances in laser surgery have allowed dental surgeons to minimize these risks.

Laser treatments allow for a more precision cut without the tactile scraping and cutting of traditional bone grafts leading to a less painful, less invasive surgery.

Schedule an appointment today to learn what options you have available.

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