While the human jaw is far from the strongest jaw in the animal kingdom, it’s still remarkably strong. We’ll never beat out animals like hyenas in terms of jaw strength, but when you compare the human jaw to those of other primates, you begin to see just how strong and efficient ours are. In fact, one study comparing the bite forces of humans with primates found that, when each skull is scaled up to the same size, our bite force is at least 40% stronger than all but one of the primates tested—gibbons.
When it comes down to it, our jaws create and endure a surprisingly strong bite force every day, with the ability to bite down with a maximum of between 247 and 292 pounds of force. That’s amazing, right?
As amazing as this is, however, several factors can cause your jaw to weaken over time, and one of those factors is bone loss. This condition is often caused by issues like untreated periodontal disease, tooth loss, and osteoporosis. It leaves the bone in your jaw thinner and weaker and can make treatments for tooth loss like dental implants more difficult.
Thankfully, though, these effects don’t have to be permanent! Bone grafts can be the key toward regaining your strong, healthy jaw—and can even be the first step towards restoring healthy, beautiful, and functional teeth! We know this procedure can sound complex if you’re trying to research it online, so we’ve broken it down here to help you understand it and its benefits better.
The main reason someone would need a bone graft, also known as bone augmentation, is because their jaw has suffered too much bone loss for dental implants to anchor in it successfully. Sometimes, the procedure is also done to rebuild the jaw from bone loss before you can get dentures. In either case, this bone loss is most often caused by oral health issues like advanced gum disease, called periodontitis, and tooth loss—two issues that can go hand-in-hand.
Overall health issues like osteoporosis can also lead to bone loss. Thankfully, bone grafts ensure that when this happens, you’re not out of options! They’re used to help strengthen your jaw, encouraging new bone to grow so that you can get dental implants to restore the health, function, and beauty of your missing teeth.
There are four types of bone grafts. Socket preservation is performed at the same time as a tooth extraction, with the graft going into the newly empty socket to prevent its sides from caving in. Ridge augmentation is often performed to increase the width and volume of a jawbone that has suffered extensive bone loss so that it can support tooth restoration treatments like implants or dentures. Because of the nature of this type of bone graft, it’s often performed in areas where you’ve been missing teeth for an extended time.
A sinus lift is also performed when you’ve been missing teeth for a long time, but it helps correct a more specific issue. When you lose your upper back molars and begin losing bone density there as a result, your sinus cavity can expand into the space where your tooth roots used to be—and, therefore, into the area your implants need to be.
In this case, simply placing your implants would puncture the sinus membrane, so Dr. Yazdianpour performs a sinus lift to raise the sinus cavity back up to where it belongs. Once he’s done this, he places a bone graft into the area he’s just cleared.
Although you don’t hear about it often, bone grafts can sometimes also help before you lose a tooth through a periodontal bone graft! This type of bone graft stabilizes teeth that are moving around too much in their sockets, often as a result of advanced gum disease. Placing a bone graft around the unstable tooth gives it the stability and support it needs to prevent it from wiggling around and helps it heal in the long term.
You might be surprised by just how many options there are when it comes to bone graft materials. The bone that will be placed in your jaw might come from elsewhere in your body, often your hip or the back of your jaw, but it may also come from a human donor, an animal, or may even be made from synthetic materials. If using your own bone isn’t a good option for you, access to the three other options ensures that you can still undergo the procedure. Additionally, it’s not always easy to find bone for grafts, so synthetic materials allow you to receive the procedure when availability is limited.
When you think about it, it’s an amazing feat of modern dentistry! Studies have even shown that there’s no significant difference between the amount of new bone growth kick-started by each of the four bone graft sources, so you don’t have to worry about the outcome no matter which type Dr. Yazdianpour recommends for you.
We use advanced digital technology to provide computer-enhanced treatment planning. This imaging system produces highly detailed 3D images of your teeth and jaws in just a few seconds, giving Dr. Saeed Yazdianpour an accurate look at the health of your jawbone and helping him plan your bone grafts and dental implant placement. Getting the scan taken is much more comfortable than traditional options, as you’ll get to sit in an open area with plenty of breathing room during your scan.
He can also share these results with you quickly and easily, helping him explain aspects of your treatment, point out details on your scans, and keep you informed throughout your treatment. The digital image is also incredibly easy to store and reference throughout the treatment process—and into the future.
Any bone graft procedure begins with numbing your mouth to ensure that it’s completely painless for you. Once the area is numb, Dr. Yazdianpour will make an incision in your gums to expose the area of your jawbone that needs the graft. He will clean the area thoroughly to kill any bacteria before applying the graft, after which he might cover it with a membrane to protect it during the healing process. Then it’s a simple matter of stitching your gums back up using stitches that will dissolve as you heal!
Since a bone graft is a surgical procedure, you will experience symptoms like soreness or pain and swelling afterward. You may also have bruising and may notice small, sand-like bits of bone coming out of the surgical site for a couple of days after your procedure. This is normal, but if you’re ever unsure about your symptoms or if you develop a fever, make sure to call us right away. It’s always better to be safe than sorry!
For the most part, though, you can manage symptoms like pain and swelling at home using over-the-counter pain medications or anti-inflammatories and ice packs. Dr. Yazdianpour will also likely prescribe you antibiotics to prevent infection while you heal, so make sure to complete the full course of antibiotics. The good news is that these symptoms are usually relatively mild and should begin to improve after just a few days. In fact, you should be able to go back to work the day after your bone graft!
This is just the external healing process, however. The internal process of the bone healing and growing takes much longer and will continue long after your symptoms from the procedure are gone. It generally takes three months for new bone to reach immature ossification, which is the process by which it grows and hardens, and around six to nine months before mature bone density is restored.
Once your jaw has fully healed and the new bone has grown and matured, you should have a strong jaw that can handle dental restorations like implants as well as the daily pressures put on it from tasks like chewing.
This means a restored smile that’s as beautiful as it is functional, and able to handle whatever you decide to put on the menu. Implants function just like natural teeth, so you should be able to eat all your favorite foods again, from corn on the cob and whole apples to steak!
Life can take a toll on your jaw, but modern technology means that the effects don’t have to be permanent! Bone grafts can restore your jaw’s strength and set you on the path toward reclaiming functional, strong, and beautiful teeth. If you’d like to learn more about bone grafts or implant options from a respected prosthodontist near Chico, CA, feel free to schedule an appointment with us at any time!