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Grafting, Green Goo and Other Miracles

Dr. Crapo


Dear Dr. Crapo: I’m a sixty-five year old guy that’s had trouble with his teeth since childhood. Right now I’ve got six upper teeth left – four of them work and two have got green, gooey juice oozing out of the gums around them. I met with my dentist and he’s suggested that I get all six of the teeth out and put in some implants for new teeth. Problem is he says I have huge sinuses and I’ll have to have bone put in them so that my implants will be strong enough because my bite is so powerful that I’ve lost my teeth – that and I’m not much of a flosser….or brusher for that matter. He said he doesn’t do the grafting or implants but he’d do my new teeth. I think he said that when my teeth were extracted, that they’d put bone in the sockets and then put bone in my sinuses and I’d go home wearing a denture so I wouldn’t be without teeth. I’m glad I won’t be without teeth but I don’t know about the bone grafting. Where does it come from? Is it human, animal or manufactured? The thoughts of having someone else’s bone in my jaw kinda grosses me out. Will I have to take drugs to make my body accept the foreign stuff? Can I get a disease from the stuff? I need some direction before I take the next step. Oh and will I have breathing and sinus problems afterwards?

Answer: There are many materials used for grafting. Some are synthetic; some come from other species and finally, human bone. In the past twenty years I’ve seen many materials used but the most predictable material I’ve seen is human bone. It is harvested like other organs of the body, from people who have donated their remains for science and medicine. The difference with bone over say a heart or lung is that genetic markers are removed so our bodies don’t recognize the bone as being different. Unlike lungs, hearts kidneys etc., which maintain their genetic differences and therefore requires medications to suppress an attack on the newly transplanted body part, bone processed for grafting is “inert” and treated for any infectious diseases so that healing is uneventful. It takes 4-6 months for the grafts to be ready to receive implants in sockets and 6 – 8 months for bone to be ready in the sinuses. In ten years of using human bone, I’ve never seen anything but great healing in sockets and sinuses and I’ve never heard or read a case of rejection or disease attributed to a human bone graft. As far as sinus problems - breathing stuffiness etc., I have not seen a problem. As a last thought, check out “teeth in a day”. In seven out of ten people, sinus grafting is not necessary.

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