When a tooth is removed as the result of decay, infection, or trauma, or if a permanent tooth fails to develop in the appropriate position, the tooth-supporting bone of the jaw begins to atrophy or melt away. Similar to muscles that atrophy if they go unused for prolonged periods of time, the jaw bone can atrophy or resorb if a missing tooth is not replaced. It is not a painful process; in fact, you are usually unaware that the bone has been resorbing after the loss of a tooth. Then, if you should decide to replace the tooth down the road, your jaw bone may lack the quality and support required for the placement of dental implants and may even lead to the loosening of other teeth. Fortunately, our doctors have the ability to maintain and even regrow bone that has resorbed so that you may be a good candidate for dental implants. The procedure used for this is called a bone graft.
You may need to undergo one or more of the following bone grafting procedures:
- Socket Preservation: Once a tooth is extracted, artificial bone is placed in the socket to help preserve the bone and gum tissue for implant placement.
- Ridge Expansion: In severe cases, the ridge has been resorbed, and a bone graft is placed to increase ridge height and/or width.
- Sinus Lift Procedure: This procedure involves elevating the sinus membrane and placing a bone graft onto the sinus floor, allowing implants to be placed in the back part of the upper jaw.
- Nerve Repositioning: The inferior alveolar nerve, which gives feeling to the lower lip and chin, may need to be moved to make room for placement of dental implants to the lower jaw.
Depending on your specific condition, your doctor may perform any of these procedures separately or together; they are most often performed separately from the dental implant procedure.
Patients most commonly ask, “Where does my bone graft come from?” In most cases, your doctor will use particulate freeze-dried bone from a tissue bank or a bone mineral substitute. In some cases, when a large quantity of bone is necessary, the material is taken from your own bone, either from inside the mouth, from the hip, or from the tibia at the knee.
Patients suffering from gum recession are encouraged to have a tissue graft, or gum graft, to protect teeth from damage. Gum recession is the tissue surrounding the teeth pulling away, exposing more of the tooth—even the root—potentially causing tooth loss and damage to the supporting bone. Patients are strongly encouraged to monitor oral health regularly, as gum recession is a slow, gradual process and easily goes unnoticed at first.
If you suffer from gum recession, your doctor may suggest one of three different types of tissue grafts, based on your individual situation and needs:
- Connective tissue grafts: Tissue is removed from under a flap of skin cut in the roof of the mouth. The tissue is then stitched to the gum surrounding an exposed tooth root, and the flap is stitched closed.
- Free gingival grafts: This is similar to a connective tissue graft, except tissue is removed directly from the roof of the mouth, not from under a flap. This is a common procedure for patients with thin gums.
- Pedicle grafts: A flap of tissue called a pedicle is partially cut from the gum near the exposed tooth root. With one edge remaining connected, the tissue is pulled and stitched to cover the exposed tooth root.
As with bone grafting, your own tissue can be used. However, graft material can be obtained from a tissue bank. One advantage of taking the tissue graft from a tissue bank is that if donor tissue is used, a second surgical site or donor site is not necessary, potentially making it more comfortable for the patient.
Where can I get bone and tissue grafts in Utah County?
Drs. Harris, Park, and Brown of Utah Surgical Arts maintain two practice offices located in Provo and Payson, Utah, serving all of Utah County and are available to schedule your bone or tissue grafting procedure at either of their locations.
More information about bone graft and sinus lift procedures can be found at: