Bone grafting in the oral cavity today, especially since dental implants have become the treatment of choice for missing teeth, is a routine, minimally invasive, predictable and practically painless procedure.  The only pain might be the needle when administering the local anesthetic numbing potion.

Based on the origin of the bone that will be used to build the graft, dental grafts can be divided into the following categories, each is usually developed with a specific purpose or advantage in mind:

  • Autograft/Autogenous:   Using bone harvested from your own body (usually another place in the jaw). No immune reaction, but involves a secondary surgical site.  Has the best success rate.
  • Allograft:  Human bone from a deceased donor, comes from a tissue bank, laboratory-processed to make it sterile and safe.
  • Xenograft:  Comes from an animal — usually a cow.
  • Alloplast:  Synthetic (man-made) material, typically a type of dental ceramic (calcium phosphates (beta-TCP) or calcium sulphate) that resembles the physical properties of the bone. It comes in a variety of forms: powder, granules, putty or even a gel that can be injected through a syringe.

The grafting material serves as a scaffold, around which your body will actually deposit new bone cells, and will eventually be absorbed by your body and replaced by your own new bone.  The jaw bone’s only purpose in the human body is to support a tooth. As a result, when the tooth is lost the body quickly begins to resorb the bone, unless it is immediately replaced with either another tooth, a dental implant or a “ridge preservation graft” (socket graft).

The most common reasons why a bone grafting procedure might be needed are:

  • Areas where teeth were extracted without an immediate socket graft, tooth re-implantation or implant, causing bone loss.
  • Areas where your jaw bone is too thin or too soft to keep an implant stabilized
  • An area where a disease associated with the tooth caused extensive bone destruction (i.e., infection, cysts, tumors), and  as a result a tooth is missing.
  • Areas of the jaw where permanent teeth were congenitally missing and as a result, normal tooth supporting bone failed to develop.
  • Bone lost from dental trauma.

You might need a bone graft to support dental implants, or to build up the ridge that once supported teeth to accommodate dentures.  Some types of bone grafts are:

  • Socket Graft or Alveolar Ridge Preservation Graft to replace bone in the space left from the root after an extraction or widen narrow bone ridges.
  • The Autogenous Ramus/Chin Graft or “Block Bone Graft” for larger areas, usually harvested from the wisdom tooth area or chin bone.
  • Sinus Lift / Subantral Graft:  increases the height of the bone in your upper jaw below the sinus cavity to provide enough bone depth to place dental implants without penetrating the sinus cavity.

The procedure for placing a bone graft usually requires only local anesthesia, though oral or IV sedatives can also be used to achieve a higher state of relaxation.  A small incision in your gum tissue will be made to access the underlying bone that will receive the graft.  The bone or synthetic granules are packed into the empty space.  A healing membrane will be placed to cover the graft, and sutures are used to close it up tight. It will then heal for a period of 4 to 6 months before dental implants can be placed in the new bone.

You may experience some soreness in the area after the surgery; this can usually be managed by over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication and/or pain relievers, as well as ice therapy after the procedure.  You will soon feel completely back to normal.  The healing process provides enough time to achieve the desired result: ideal support for replacement teeth that look great!

Bone graft surgery is temporary, but being able to eat, laugh, talk and smile lasts a lifetime!

If you are interested in bone graft in Costa Rica, fill out the “Find a Dentist” form on this page.  One of our patient advocates will reply to your needs.