What is a Dental Bone Graft?

Amanda Livingstone

A dental bone graft is usually a preparatory procedure for the installation of restorative dental implants in cases of disease or injury. During the surgical procedure, harvested bone from a donor site is affixed to the jawbone underneath the gum line. Once in place, the bone will join to the patient’s jawbone and begin to grow and strengthen over a period of several months before further dental procedures can take place in the augmented areas.

A dental bone graft may be required to support restorative dental implants in a jawbone.
A dental bone graft may be required to support restorative dental implants in a jawbone.

The amount of bone tissue regeneration largely depends on the type of graft used for the procedure. Currently there are three different types of organic bone grafting which are termed autograft, allograft and xenograft. In an autograft, bone is harvested from the patient’s own body, usually from the chin, jaw or hip. Since the bone material belongs to the patient, it is the most genetically compatible material for dental augmentation. For this reason an autograft dental bone graft gives the patient greater levels of bone regeneration compared to other types of grafts.

A dental bone graft is a surgical procedure where harvested bone from a donor site is affixed to the jawbone underneath the gum line.
A dental bone graft is a surgical procedure where harvested bone from a donor site is affixed to the jawbone underneath the gum line.

There are times when an autograft bone may not be appropriate; in these cases an allograft or xenograft can be used. Allograft bones are usually donated from human cadavers after undergoing extensive sterilization and genetic testing. Despite any genetic differences between the donor and recipient, allograft bones have the potential to produce impressive regenerative results.

Further surgeries, including implant procedures, may be necessary after a dental bone graft has healed.
Further surgeries, including implant procedures, may be necessary after a dental bone graft has healed.

Unlike dental autografts and allografts, xenografts are composed of bovine bone material harvested from cows. Xenografts are sterilized, then processed to be biologically compatible with the patient’s bone. Eventually the bovine material will slowly degrade while being replaced by the patient’s own bone.

Practicing good oral hygiene may help prevent gingivitis, which can cause bone and tooth loss.
Practicing good oral hygiene may help prevent gingivitis, which can cause bone and tooth loss.

Some patients may choose alloplastic bone grafts, which are synthetic, for various reasons, including their immediate availability as opposed to organic grafts. A dental bone graft of an alloplastic nature is usually derived from many sources such as calcium phosphate and synthetic hydroxyapatite. One major difference between alloplastic and organic bone grafts is that the synthetic material may not stimulate additional bone growth in the augmented dental areas. Whether or not natural bone growth occurs, implanted alloplastic graft material will continue to serve as a bone structure for dental implants.

The need for an organic or inorganic dental bone graft usually stems from acute or chronic bone loss. Dental disease and injury can contribute to bone loss underneath the gum line. Periodontal disease, also known as gingivitis, is one of the more common conditions responsible for chronic bone loss. Gingivitis is characterized by inflammation, gum infections and tooth decay. Traumatic injury due to various physical activities and accidents can also cause acute bone loss.

A thorough understanding of a patient's particular bone structure is important when designing dental implants.
A thorough understanding of a patient's particular bone structure is important when designing dental implants.

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