Bone that is not providing its normal function has a tendency to shrink,
or "resorb." For example, if you have been missing a tooth for some time,
you are very likely to have experienced some bone loss in the area
where the tooth once stood. Similarly, severe periodontal (gum)
disease is often associated with resorption of the surrounding bone.
Bone grafting aims both to replace missing bone and to stimulate new
The technique has become routine in oral and dental surgery, and is
used most frequently to prepare the jaw bone for dental implants.
Dental implants sit on metal posts that are inserted directly into
the bone of the jaw, and therefore, resorbed bone must be built up
before implants can be placed.
Bone grafting can also be used for a number of other reasons, such
as building up the alveolar bone to provide better support for
dentures, or correcting bone defects caused by the removal of cysts,
tooth extraction, or gum disease. More extensive bone grafts can
also play an important part in reconstructive surgery for severe
trauma, disfiguring diseases such as cancer, or congenital conditions
such as cleft palate.
Bone grafting is best done using the patient's own bone - this is
called an autograft or an autogenous graft. Bone can be taken from
other regions in the mouth, for example behind the molars, the
chin, or the back of the upper jaw. Bone grafts taken from animals
(xenograft) or cadavers (allograft) are also sometimes used. In
addition, a synthetic material has been developed that has properties
similar to natural bone and can be used for small grafting procedures.