Bone grafting is where the jawbone is built up to accommodate a dental implant or other restorative device. Bone grafting is a common procedure that is used frequently for dental implants and other periodontal procedures. The bone used to graft is taken from a sample from the patient. Many times, the bone is taken from another area of the mouth when drilling takes place. The bone fragments are suctioned from the mouth and used for the graft. Cadaver bone fragments are also used. They are harvested by bone banks and are a very safe source for bone donation.
According to Hopkinsmedicine.org, "Bone grafting is a surgical procedure that uses transplanted bone to repair and rebuild diseased or damaged bones. A bone graft is a choice for repairing bones almost anywhere in your body. Your surgeon might take bone from your hips, legs, or ribs to perform the graft. Sometimes, surgeons also use bone tissue donated from cadavers to perform bone grafting.
Most of your skeleton consists of bone matrix. This is the hard material that helps give the bones their strength. Inside the matrix are living bone cells. These make and maintain this matrix. The cells in this matrix can help repair and heal bone when necessary.
When you break your bone, the healing process begins. As long as the break in your bone is not too large, your bone cells can repair it. Sometimes, though, a fracture results in a large loss of bone, like when a large chunk of the bone crumbles away. In these cases, your bone might not fully heal without a bone graft.
During a bone graft, your surgeon inserts a new piece of bone in the place where a bone needs to heal or join. The cells inside the new bone can then seal themselves to the old bone.
Surgeons often perform bone grafting as a part of some other medical procedure. For example, if you have a bad fracture of your thighbone, your healthcare provider might perform a bone graft as part of other necessary repairs on your bone. Your healthcare provider might make an incision in your hip to remove a small piece of your hip bone, using that to perform your graft.
In some cases, an artificial material is used in a similar way, but this is not a bone graft in the traditional sense. You will typically be put to sleep with general anesthesia for the procedure.
Why might I need bone grafting?
You might need bone grafting to promote bone healing and growth for a number of different medical reasons. Some specific conditions that might require a bone graft include:
- An initial fracture that your healthcare provider suspects won’t heal without a graft
- A fracture that you previously did not have treated with a graft and that didn’t heal well
- Diseases of the bone, like osteonecrosis or cancer
- Spinal fusion surgery (which you might need if you have an unstable spine)
- Dental implant surgery (which you might need if you want to replace missing teeth)
- Surgically implanted devices, like in total knee replacement, to help promote bone growth around the structure
These bone grafts can provide a framework for the growth of new, living bone. Hips, knees, and spine are common locations for bone grafting, but you might need bone grafting for a different bone in your body.
Talk with your healthcare provider about whether you want to use a bone from a donor or a bone from elsewhere in your body. If you use your own bone, you will have to have extra surgery to remove this bone. You won’t need this if you use donated bone, but donated bone has its own small risks. Talk with your healthcare provider about what makes sense for you.
What are the risks for bone grafting?
Bone grafting is generally safe, but it does have some rare risks.
- Blood clot
- Nerve damage
- Complications from anesthesia
- Infection from the donated bone (very rare)
There is also a risk that your bone might not heal well even with your bone graft. Many of your specific risks will vary according to the exact reason for your bone graft. These reasons include whether or not you are using donor tissue, your other medical conditions, and your age. For example, your bone graft might not be as likely to heal well if you smoke or if you have diabetes. Talk with your healthcare provider about all your concerns, including the risks that most apply to you."