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Bone Grafting: How Does It Improve Your Jawbones Before Dental Implant Surgery?

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Your dentist can improve the health and stability of your jawbones with dental implant surgery. But if your jawbones don't possess enough bone cells or tissue to accept, protect and stabilize the implants after the surgery, the implants can fail. To avoid this problem and address it head on, the dentist will graft bone tissue into your jawbones. Bone grafting is one of the most useful and advanced dental treatments today. It replaces bone tissue lost to missing teeth, gum disease and infections. Here's what happens to your jaws after tooth loss, how bone grafting works, and why it's essential that you have it done now.

What Happens to Your Jaws When You Lose Teeth?

Within the first year of losing a tooth, your jawbones lose up to 25 percent of the natural height and thickness. As a result, your jawbones look significantly thinner and smaller than they did before you lost teeth. You may even appear older than you actually are because of the effects of tooth and bone loss. For instance, if you lose teeth in your lower jawbone, the shape and size of your chin, jawline and lower cheekbones will look less defined. 

Bone grafting rebuilds your lost bone tissue by increasing the growth and development of their bone cells. Your jawbones contains two types of bone tissue: alveolar and cortical. Alveolar bone tissue supports your teeth, while cortical bone supports the entire lower half of your face. Once you lose teeth, the cortical bone gradually pulls the alveolar bone tissue back into it.

Alveolar bone tissue relies on your teeth to maintain a healthy growth rate and appearance. When you bite down on food, your teeth stimulate the cells in the alveolar bone to move around and grow. Without teeth, the cells don't have a purpose for being in the alveolar bone, so they return to the cortical bone or simply die.

Where Does the Bone Grafting Tissue Come From and Why?

Before your dentist begins your dental implant treatment, he or she examines the quality of your alveolar bone tissue. Generally, x-rays or CT scans can measure the height of your jawbones, while bone density tests measure the thickness of the jawbones. If the bone tissue isn't thick or placed high enough in your jawbones, the dentist will graft bone tissue cells inside it.

Bone grafting tissue usually comes from the bones in your body, such as your thigh bones. They can also come from a tissue-compatible cadaver donor. Although these two methods work well, they may take longer to rebuild your lost jawbones, which slow down your dental implant treatment.

There are other, more advanced methods used by dentists to increase the height and thickness of poor jawbone tissue. For example, some advanced bone grafting techniques use adult stem cells to grow new bone tissue in the jawbones at a fast rate.

The dentist uses a special needle to remove stem cells from your bone marrow and place them directly into the alveolar bone of your jaws. Bone marrow cells are unique because they have the ability to reproduce and mature very quickly. As a result, your jawbones regenerate new bone tissue faster than they would with a traditional bone graft.

After your jawbones appear healthy enough, the dentist begins placing your dental implants. Each dental implant bonds with the new bone tissue in your jaws. However, it may take up to three months before your jaws are completely healed from the surgery and grafting. 

Bone grafting is a necessity when you don't have enough healthy bone tissue to accept them. If you have questions about bone grafting before your dental implant surgery, contact your dentist for more information.