Bone Grafts: Safe and Effective

If you are going to have a tooth implant, you will probably need a bone graft. An implant comes in two parts—the top part that is your new tooth and looks like your old tooth, dr_ford_phoenix_dentistonly better–no decay, no damage. The bottom part of an implant is a screw that is fastened into the jawbone.  “After the implant, the bone heals around the screw portion, giving a good, strong fit and the feel of a natural tooth,” says Dr. Carol Ford from her Phoenix dental office.

Sometimes, the bone is not suitable for an implant. It may have weakened and not be able to support the implant. In some cases, the bone is not wide or deep enough to hold the screw of the implant. In that case, a bone graft is called for.

Creating the space for a tooth is somewhat like re-potting a plant—to do that, you will need a pot with enough soil to comfortably hold the plant—the new pot needs to be big enough to hold the plant, and you’ll need additional potting soil to pack around the existing roots to hold it in place.

Bone grafts serve the same purpose as the potting soil—they provide a stable environment to hold the tooth. They are safe and done with a variety of materials.

The material used in bone grafts can come from the patient’s own mouth—if the mouth is healthy. Bone grafts are sometimes taken from the patient’s hip, but this requires a surgeon working with the dentist in a hospital setting. “The advantage to using a patient’s own bone is that there is absolutely no chance of rejection or introducing a foreign bacteria,” says Dr. Ford. “But it’s not the only choice.”

Other popular and effective bone grafts use sterilized bovine-derived bone. The bone is chemically treated and sterilized and is effective in creating a sturdy attachment for the implant.

There is also another, naturally occurring bone-graft material.  The material is made from marine algae. On the website for Osseous [Bone] Technologies of America  Boyd Tomasetti, DMD, Assistant Clinical Professor at the University of Colorado School of Dentistry explains the implant material. Dr. Tomasetti is a board-certified oral/maxillofacial surgeon, and past president of the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons. The marine algae “is a completely natural bone-grafting material derived from the [algae’s skeleton], a renewable plant . . .  [resource] When dried and processed according to strict Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines and Good Manufacturing Procedures, the harvested algae is transformed into calcium phosphate, which can provide osteoconductive scaffolding [good bone structure] for bone regeneration. . . “

If you are going to have a bone graft, discuss your choices with your dentist before deciding. “An informed patient makes the best decisions about oral health,” says Dr. Ford. “We really want to discuss all options with the patient, all the pros and cons, to make sure that the procedure works not only medically, but also comfortably for our patients.” And once the bone graft is complete and the implants are secured, your smile will be perfect and sparkling.


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