Bone loss to the jaw is one of the most serious consequences of missing teeth.
It begins as soon as a tooth is lost, when the natural stimulation for bone growth created by the force of teeth chewing can no longer occur. The result can be dramatic—the width of the bone can reduce by 25% in the first year alone after tooth loss.
How Bone Grafts Work
Bone grafts are derived from one of four possible sources: the patient, another human being, an animal or synthetic materials.
The source used will depend on whichever the dentist believes will work best in the patient’s situation. Donor tissue from another person or animal is thoroughly disinfected and safe for grafting.
The graft itself acts more as a platform for nearby bone to grow upon; the new bone growth will eventually replace the graft material, which is made up of the minerals calcium, phosphorous and hydroxyapatite. The dentist may also cover the graft with collagen membranes to guide the regeneration, or synthetic material that acts with other biologically active molecules in the body to promote healing. These materials are eventually absorbed by the body.
Not all grafting procedures are alike—the particular approach taken will depend on the location in the mouth, the degree of bone loss, and whether the grafting takes place immediately after removing a tooth (extraction) or if some time has passed since tooth loss.