Missing teeth and severe gum disease can cause the jawbone to shrink over time. Areas of the jaw bone with missing teeth can resorb and lead to bone loss and a decrease in the quality of the bone. Missing areas of bone in the jaw can preclude placement of dental implants to replace the missing teeth. Bone grafting is performed to replace missing bone and to promote new bone growth. The procedure helps restore the normal dimensions of the jaw bone.
Bone grafting may be done with the patient’s own bone (known as an autograft). For smaller areas bone may be obtained from behind the molars, chin, or the posterior portion of the upper jaw. Bone may be obtained from the hip to perform grafting in larger areas. Bone grafts may also be taken from animals or cadavers or synthetic materials may be used for smaller graft procedures.
The bone grafting procedure is usually performed on an outpatient basis under local anesthesia, which means you will feel no pain and will be awake during the entire procedure. During the procedure, your surgeon uses special surgical instruments to lift the soft gum tissue and expose the bone. The bone graft material is placed at the site of the missing bone. Your surgeon may also instill special proteins along with the new graft to promote bone growth. The surrounding tissues are then sutured close and the procedure is deemed complete.
Some soreness, swelling, and bleeding can be expected after the surgery. Pain medications will be prescribed to alleviate pain. You may apply ice to reduce swelling and discomfort. Your doctor will give you specific instructions on dental hygiene and follow-up.