Dental Bone Grafts in Boston

The term “bone graft” may sound a little frightening. At Dental Partners of Boston, our goal is to equip you with knowledge and reassure you that when you are in our highly experienced hands, there's a lot less to worry about. When understood, in its proper context, dental bone grafting is an excellent tool that allows dental specialists to perform amazing restorative and cosmetic procedures that can leave your mouth healthier and looking more aesthetically pleasing.

A gif of a before and after of a bone graft in a patient
An ever evolving variety of bone-building techniques are used to restore bone. Dental Partners of Boston's dental experts can help you improve your smile!

What Are Dental Bone Grafts?

If left long enough, gum disease can damage the jawbone surrounding the teeth. This often leaves a depression in the bone. Having a tooth pulled can also cause a similar effect. In many situations, we are now able to grow bone where degradation has occurred around our teeth. We fix this with a bone graft. There are many types of different bone grafts, which we will explain below.

The exact process may vary depending on your specific situation, however, usually we will first lift the gums and thoroughly clean the tooth's roots below. After this step, we will prepare the site and insert the new graft material into the prepared site. Many grafting materials are available. Today, there are new biologically active gels and growth factors that can be added to the graft to help stimulate and enhance new bone growth more effectively.

There Are Many Different Kinds Of Dental Bone Grafts

An ever evolving variety of bone-building techniques are used to restore bone depending on the location and the severity of the bone loss. Bone grafting is highly effective when done by an experienced professional and often, a very simple bone graft is all that is required; however, it is important to understand the various options available. Grafting methods may include:

  • Particulate grafts
  • Block grafts
  • Sinus lift procedures

Bone Grafts In Preparation For Dental Implants

One of the more unknown side effects of tooth extraction is that the bone almost immediately begins to shrink where it once supported a tooth. For example, after an extraction is performed in the top jaw bone, a shrinking of 25% can occur within the first 3 months. Modern best practices for a tooth extraction, when an implant is later desired, is to place a graft in the cavity to reduce this shrinkage. A graft can minimize shrinkage from 25% to 8% and help preserve bone so that a dental implant can be placed. When significant bone loss has occurred due to tooth extraction, patients may be unable to receive dental implants unless the existing bone can be fortified and built up.

Small Grafts

When a tooth is lost, there are a few ways to ensure that you don't suffer excessive bone loss. When possible, one of our dentists will work with you to determine what options you have. Ideally, a small graft will be placed within the empty socket to ensure minimal shrinkage. Demineralized bone granules, similar in appearance to sand, will be packed into the socket. A protective collagen membrane coats the granules and the socket will usually be closed up by stitching the gums together, sealing the granules in. In addition to being a simple procedure, your recovery time is generally no shorter than any other bone graft procedure.

It will take several weeks, but your body will integrate the granules into your jaws bone structure, maintaining optimal shape until a permanent solution can be reached. If you are able to replace the missing tooth with a dental implant, the bone level will remain indefinitely. When replacing the missing tooth with the granule bridge, some of the bone levels will be lost over time.

Medium Grafts

Due to extenuating circumstances in some of our patients' lives, a dental bridge or graft may not have been an immediate option. When these patients come in years later, a slightly more complex bone graft may be required. For these patients, a small incision will be made over the area of the missing tooth, and the underlying bone will be cleaned and prepared. Demineralized bone granules again will be used to build up the area in preparation for a new dental implant or cosmetic restoration of the bone.

Often the patients on bone granules will be used for better results. If your dentist decides that using your own bone granules is in your best interest, they will usually take them from the jawbone near your wisdom teeth. Large pieces of bone are rarely needed in this case. Most often a small amount of bone is shaved off the bone and added to the demineralized granules. The new graft will again be protected by a collagen membrane that will give the graft the few months that it needs to be integrated into the original bone tissue. This type of graft can be used for one or multiple areas of missing teeth.

Large Grafts

Patients who have been missing teeth for anywhere from a few years to decades, often have experienced advanced levels of bone loss which prevents an adequate restoration of the teeth. In cases of advanced bone loss, the jaw bone can be as thin as a pencil. Our Boston dental office often sees long-term denture wearers with this type of advanced bone loss. Unfortunately, these patients can no longer successfully use dentures and are also no longer a candidate for dental implants. Extensive bone grafting is necessary to restore the missing teeth as well as restore an essential quality of life.

A similar process will be used for advanced bone loss as was used with medium grafts. The patient’s bone will be used and is supplied by another part of the jaw, hip or tibia in the form of a small block. This block is anchored in place in the recipient site using specialized bone screws and sometimes plates. Bone granules are used to enhance the graft. A collagen membrane will be used to protect the entire site, then closed tightly with sutures and left to heal for a several months before dental implants can be placed in the new bone.

Sinus Lift

The upper jaw has challenges of its own. Patients missing upper molar teeth often experience extensive bone loss which causes the maxillary sinuses to become affected. The maxillary sinus is a hollow cavity which sits just above the molars in the upper jaw. After a majority of your upper molars have been lost, the bone above them begins to droop. Between bone loss from the missing teeth and the descending maxillary sinus, patients can end up with bone as thin as an eggshell in this area.

Dental implants cannot be placed when so much bone has been lost. Extensive grafting is done to raise the floor of the sinus and thicken the bone in this area. This procedure is commonly referred to as a “sinus lift.” With this procedure, an incision will be made in the gum tissue. Access to the maxillary sinus is gained through this incision. The membrane of the maxillary sinus will be cut and lifted in order to perform the graft. It's extremely important that you use a dental professional with exceptional experience and knowledge of this procedure. A graft of this type will need at least 4 months to heal before dental implants can be placed in the new bone.

Let Dental Partners of Boston Improve Your Quality of Life Today!

Call us today to schedule a consultation with our highly experienced and professional staff. While bone grafting is a surgical procedure which can sometimes be somewhat daunting, it plays a critical role in making new teeth possible. New teeth which can not only improve your life but extend it as well. The art and science of implant dentistry have brought us these highly specialized and successful techniques to restore what was lost and make it possible to have a beautiful smile. Bone graft surgery is temporary, but being able to eat, laugh, talk and smile will benefit you through the rest of your life!