The idea of grafting bone into your jaw might sound a little scary. But it is a painless
process that could literally save your life, not just your oral health.
There are number of reasons you might need some extra bone. It could be that you were born with too little, suffered a trauma to the jaw, or have been wearing dentures (which don’t stop the process of bone loss that comes with aging). You just need some augmentation for your upper and lower jaw, not only for normally chewing, but appearance (the bone supports the muscles of the lower face, including full cheeks and lips).
The most common reason for needing a bone graft is periodontal disease, an infection that starts in the gums if your brushing and flossing are not adequate, but initially causes no pain (though you may notice increased bleeding where the gums meet the teeth). Without an x-ray, the deterioration of the jawbone can go undetected, so it is prudent to have one once a year to be sure it is healthy (digital x-rays emit very little radiation). Eventually, this can cause a tooth to fall out or need to be extracted, as the gums around detach from supporting the tooth and the underlying bone becomes weak. If a tooth is missing, the neighboring teeth naturally lean towards the gap to fill it in, unless the tooth is replaced with a dental implant right away to stop this process. As these teeth lean, they become loose, potentially falling out, as well. The gradual misalignment can also make it harder to clean teeth, furthering the infection.
When this reaches the jawbone, it can eat it away to the point where a graft is needed before an implant can be done, because of inadequate width or height of the remaining bone. The sooner this is done after discovering a loose tooth or after it is extracted, the better.
Sometimes the maxillary sinus, located over the roots of the back teeth in your upper jaw, needs to have its floor elevated with a bone graft. Wherever extra bone is needed in either jaw, the bone particles are surgically added, whether from your own bone elsewhere in the body, biocompatible synthetic bone, or donated from a cadaver (all types are very safe). These integrate with your natural bone and it takes one to four months to heal to be ready for an implant.
There are a variety of ways we can make this painless. Some patients just need a local injection of an anesthetic or may want to inhale nitrous oxide to relax for the surgery. There are also mild and strong forms of an oral pain medication for those who need something more, which will make most people sleepy. For those who want to sleep entirely through the procedure, we can also provide the anesthetic through an intravenous (IV) drip.
“If you believe you may have bone loss, come in for a full examination and once we diagnose your state of oral health, we can explain the options, whether they include bone grafting or just gum surgery, for example,” said Dr. Igal Elyassi of Wilshire Smile Studio.