Don't Lose That Bone
February 22, 2013
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Don’t Lose That Bone...

            The bone around our teeth that attaches our teeth to our jaws (alveolar bone) exists mostly for one hold our teeth in place.  When teeth are lost due to trauma, decay, or gum disease, the alveolar bone starts to go with it.  Some studies show bone loss of up to 30% in as few as six months after losing a tooth.  Once this bone volume is lost, it becomes costly and complicated to replace.  Without bone support, most any way of replacing teeth (implants, bridges, partial plates, or dentures) will be compromised.  Loss of alveolar bone also contributes to wrinkles, an eternal upside-down smile, incompetent lips (caved in below the nose), and a narrowing of the smile.

            If possible, don’t lose that valuable bone.

When a tooth must be removed, there is often an important decision to be made…to graft bone or not to graft bone.  That is the question.  In simple terms, would you like to immediately fill that hole where your tooth used to be or would you like your body to fill the socket slowly over the next four to six months?  This procedure must usually be done at the same time the tooth is removed.

Grafting bone into an empty hole where the tooth used to be is called ridge preservation.  The procedure is quite simple and the advantages are many.  Once a tooth is removed, the socket (hole) is cleaned with antibiotic and the graft is placed.  Then, some type of cover is stitched over the hole to hold the grafted bone in and to keep bad stuff out.  One big advantage of grafting bone is that patients often report less post-operative pain.  Another is that there is no hole for food and debris to keep getting packed into.

Not all teeth to be extracted are good candidates for bone grafting.  Infection or lack of healthy surrounding bone can make grafting less successful.  When an extraction site is a good candidate, the only disadvantage to grafting bone is the cost.  Bone graft material is meticulously regulated, sterilized, and processed, therefore, not cheap.  The good news is that some dental insurance benefits supplement this cost for patients.

Until next week, keep smiling.

-Questions and comments can be sent to Drs. Parrish at