This involves filling a tooth extraction socket with bone, generally at the time of the extraction. It is generally only needed if you are planning an implant in the same spot, as it preserves more bone to anchor the implant. Occasionally it’s indicated to preserve the shape of the gums for a front bridge. The bone comes from cadavers (dead people), and a few people have religious objections to this. The bone is dried, ground into small granules, and sterilized. The clinical procedure involves collecting about a half teaspoon of blood from the extraction site, mixing it with the bone granules, and packing it into the socket. In some cases, for example chronically abscessed teeth, the socket is too badly damaged, and a “membrane” is placed to contain the bone (there is an additional charge for this). You will notice occasional bits of grit in your mouth for a couple of weeks as loose bits of graft fall out. At 6 weeks, we take an X-ray to verify the bone fill, and at 4 months the socket is ready for an implant.
If there are no plans for an implant, a graft is usually not worth the money (it costs around $300 as of 2015, whereas the extraction is $250). If you’re not sure if you might want an implant, but think you might, we advise doing the graft to keep your options open. In favorable cases, with a wide ridge and easy extraction, we may advise you that it’s not worth the added expense. The need for membrane placement ($300) is unfortunately frequently not obvious until the surgery is in progress, and we discover the extraction area is badly damaged.