Well, it happened: you lost a tooth. Whether it occurred due to an injury, gum disease, tooth decay or some other more exotic reason, you’ve got a gap in your mouth that needs filling. And you’re thinking about a dental implant.
First word of advice: Don’t wait. See your dentist for a consult right away. When your tooth falls out, the part of the jaw bone that supported it will start a process called resorption. Your body actually starts to reabsorb the bone cells from the area vacated by your tooth. In a matter of months, you can lose so much bone in that spot that there won’t be enough to support that snazzy dental implant.
What can you do?
The Solution: A Bone Graft
A dentist or oral surgeon performs this procedure. A bone graft is the adding of bone material to the existing bone of your jaw area to create “scaffolding” for the implant. Several bone grafting options are available. Which one you choose will depend on your preferences, the amount of bone loss and the unique facts of your case.
1. Your Own Bone
Grafting bone from your own body is called an autogenous bone graft or autograft. Typically bone from the chin or from the back of the jaw is used for these grafts. This is the best source because it uses living tissue from your very own body, with intact cells that promote bone formation and healing.
Keep in mind: This kind of graft requires invasive surgery and makes for a much more complicated procedure. This option might not be ideal for every patient.
2. Donated Bone
A bone graft using human bone from a donor is called an allograft. Even though it comes from a human who is not you, allograft bone is processed in a way that enables it to keep its cell-forming properties while preventing any transmission of disease. Allografts, like autografts, stimulate cells to promote bone formation and healing and require less surgery. That can mean less recovery time.
3. Animal Bone
Bone grafts using bone from non-human sources are called xenografts. Typically sourced from cows, xenograft bone is available in abundant supply, so your dental professional knows for sure there will be enough bone for the graft. But because the bone is from another species, xenografts require more healing time and the resulting bone formation is usually not as strong as it would be with human bone.
4. Synthetic Bone
Synthetic materials are now available that perform the same scaffolding function as the other types of bone grafts. But because synthetic bone is man-made, it lacks the bone regeneration abilities of autografts and allografts. Synthetic bone grafts are also weaker structurally than the natural materials, but do have one big plus: there is absolutely no risk of disease transmission.
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Each of these bone graft solutions has advantages and disadvantages. If you need a graft, your dentist can help you decide the best option for you. The most important thing is to take action as soon as you lose a tooth. You may be able to avoid a bone graft altogether and streamline the process of getting a state-of-the-art dental implant that beautifully completes your smile.