Bone grafting is a procedure done to help preserve the bone where the teeth need to be. Here we explain the process and why it’s important.
What is bone grafting and when is it needed in dentistry?
Dr. Darren McKeever: Bone grafting has actually been around for quite a while. Until lately though, it has not been as popular as it really should have been. What’s really happened is it’s become very predictable, whereas it wasn’t years ago when I first started doing it. Bone grafting is used to preserve the bone where the teeth are, the neighboring teeth may be, or in a site where you’ve lost a tooth and you want to maintain bone height so that you can put a dental implant in and not hopefully hit another anatomic area that you don’t want to be involved with because you don’t have enough bone.
Please describe what someone can expect during bone graft surgery.
Dr. Darren McKeever: That’s easy. Boredom. Bone graft surgery is not really very exciting for the patient. Once you’re numb, it’s basically accessing the area that needs to be grafted. The soft tissue has to be moved out of the way. Sometimes, a bad tooth has to be removed. After that, the bone graft which looks basically like kosher salt is introduced into the site. Sometimes you have to use a membrane over the extraction site perhaps if you can’t pull the soft tissue together. Some stitches are involved. But, it’s really not a very exciting procedure for the patient. Once they’re numb … you know, some people actually fall asleep during it.
What are the benefits of using processed bone that is not your own to do the graft?
Dr. Darren McKeever: Well, the nice thing about the donor bone or processed bone is that you don’t need to have a second surgical site. What I mean by that is, where you’re going to be doing the bone graft, is your primary site. But if you have to obtain the bone from somewhere else in that patient’s body, that’s a second area where they’re going to have to have a surgical procedure in order to harvest the bone. One of the things that has made bone grafting a lot more productive, a lot more popular with people, is they don’t have to have two different areas that they are wondering, “When are these things going to heal to the point where I don’t remember even having that procedure done.”
How long does it take for the bone graft to heal before the dental implant can be done?
Dr. Darren McKeever: Well in my opinion, it takes about 3 to 4 months before the bone graft has hardened enough and been accepted by the patient’s body enough where you can predictably put an implant in and the implant will be stable. Now, there are a lot of places where they are pushing that limit to a lot sooner. But by moving things up and making them a little bit quicker, it may be a little more convenient for the patient in the long run but we’re accepting higher failure rates in doing that. So in my opinion, once the bone graft has been put in, it really takes at least 3 to 4 months before you can put an implant into that area and really feel that it’s a stable implant.
Are there any complications or side effects from bone grafting that people should be aware of?
Dr. Darren McKeever: There really aren’t any complications with bone grafting that’s specific to bone grafting compared to any other surgical site. There’s always a chance of an inflammatory reaction where the patient might have some discomfort. There’s always a chance where there could be a secondary infection in the area. But there are no different than when people have an extraction or periodontal surgery. Bone grafting is basically a very benign procedure. In my opinion, you’re accessing a site. Sometimes it’s a site where you’ve just extracted a tooth so you already have a surgical area that’s been opened up and you’re introducing basically the bone graft into an area that’s willing to accept it anyway. There really aren’t any complications other than typical surgical complications that are something that would be specific to bone grafting itself.
If you are interested in speaking with Dr. Darren McKeever, visit www.mckeeverdentalcare.com or call 973-839-8180 to schedule an appointment.