Bone grafting for dental implants

Bone loss (or bone resorption) often occurs when teeth have been lost but not replaced, with age, or in people who have worn dentures for some time. When resorption has excessively reduced the jawbone, dental implants cannot be placed as there is not enough good-quality bone material for the implant to anchor to. In these cases, the bone can be rebuilt through modern bone grafting techniques. Bone grafts can build up or fill in jawbone defects allowing the successful placement of dental implants. These techniques represent one of the greatest advances in modern dentistry.

There are generally four types of bone grafts used:

  1. Autografts are those where the bone to be grafted to the jaw is taken, or harvested, from your own body. The area where the bone is harvested from, known as the donor site, is usually the mouth or the hip. This is your own bone and is very compatible with your body. Autografts are generally the best graft technique and usually result in the greatest regeneration of missing jawbone.

  2. Allografts are taken from human donors. Many countries have donor programs where you can specify that in the event of your death, parts may be harvested from your body to save or improve the life of others. Heart transplants are one type of allograft. This can represent one of the greatest "gifts" you ever give. Bone obtained in this manner undergoes rigorous tests and sterilization. Your body "converts" the donor bone into your natural bone, thereby rebuilding your resorbed jawbone.

  3. Xenografts are harvested from animals. The animal bone, most commonly bovine (cow), is specially processed to make it biocompatible and sterile. It acts like a "filler", which, in time, your body will replace with natural bone. After this replacement process is complete, dental implants may be placed to support teeth.

  4. Alloplastic grafts are inert, manmade synthetic materials. The modern artificial joint replacement procedure uses metal alloplastic grafts. For bone replacement a manmade material that mimics natural bone is used. Most often, this is a form of calcium phosphate. Depending on how it is made, it may be "resorbable" or "non-resorbable". That is, your body may or may not replace the alloplastic graft with your natural bone. In those cases where it is not replaced, it acts as a lattice or scaffold upon which natural bone is built. In either case, the end result is to create enough bone for the placement of dental implants.

Modern bone grafting techniques can be nothing short of a miracle for those needing bone replacement. Should your doctor recommend this treatment you will be given further information on the type, location and amount of graft needed.