Dr. Perkins says that a bone graft simply involves replacing bone that is missing in a patient’s mouth with new bone, permitting the area of the jaw to be restored. A graft may be necessary for several reasons, but a common situation calling for a bone graft is as a preliminary to a dental implant. If a tooth is extracted and bone is not added to the place where the tooth was removed, the underlying bone will recede over time. The bone needs to be restored in order to accommodate the implant.
Dr. Perkins explains that his practice in dealing with the problem begins with a careful extraction of a tooth, preserving enough bone around the site of the extraction to hold the graft in place. The next step is to clean out the empty socket to make sure there is no soft tissue remaining that could inhibit the graft’s ability to adhere to the bone. Once the socket has been prepared, the graft material is placed in the socket, probably all the way up to the level of existing bone. When the graft is in place, a membrane is placed over it to keep skin cells from growing into the graft material while it is healing. Then, the area is sutured shut to hold everything in place.
Dr. Perkins points out that there are four types of bone that can be used for grafts. The first one is synthetic bone made in a factory. The synthetic bone contains all the materials that would be found in real bone. Another option is a XenoGraft, a substance made from bovine bones. There are also two types of bones that are human-related. An allograft bone comes from a cadaver bank and has been thoroughly cleaned with all protein removed. An autograft bone comes from the person who is receiving the graft.
Several factors influence the choice of the type used in the graft. Dr. Perkins says that the factors include the type of bone that the patient has and what the dentist is looking to do at the end of the procedure (e.g., dental implant or simple bone restoration). Often, a dentist will use a mixture of two types to achieve the desired result.
As to risks involved, Dr. Perkins explains that the risks are fairly modest, the biggest one being that the graft doesn’t take the way it should. That can happen, for example, because a patient’s body rejects the graft. The procedure includes all the other risks associated with any dental surgical procedure, including pain, swelling, and infection. These risks are managed with pain medications and antibiotics.
Dr. Blake Perkins is with New Image Cosmetic & Family Dentistry of Vancouver, Washington. He is a graduate of the Case Western Reserve School of Dentistry. Dr. Perkins spent several years as an Air Force dentist and trained with specialists from all aspects of dentistry. He still serves his country through the Air National Guard. The Health & Wellness Network is a featured network of Sequence Media Group.