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What is Guided Bone Regeneration?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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Guided bone regeneration (GBR) is a technique used in dentistry to rebuild part of the bone in the jaw, if necessary, before performing implants and fitting other dental appliances. This technique encourages new bone to replace areas of damage in the jaw and can be used alongside guided tissue regeneration (GTR) to rebuild soft tissue in a patient's mouth. The technology and practice behind these techniques is subject to constant refinement and clinical studies are also used to explore the possibility of applying these techniques in other regions of the body.

Chronic dental disease and tooth loss often leads to loss of hard tissue in the jaw. People with missing teeth can experience resorption, where part of the jaw dissolves away. Other patients may have infections and inflammation eating into the bone of the jaw and breaking it up, causing parts of the jaw to disappear over time. These can cause unsightly disfigurements in addition to making a patient uncomfortable, and they may complicate fitting of implants and other appliances.

In guided bone regeneration, the area of interest is carefully cleaned to remove dead and infected material and a membrane is placed over the bone. The membrane will not allow soft tissue like epithelial cells to pass, allowing hard tissue to develop under the membrane without interference or intrusion. New bone will fill in the hole in the jaw over time, and the dentist can perform the next step in an implant procedure.

Soft tissue tends to fill in much faster than bone, making the use of a membrane critical, as otherwise the gap in the bone will fill in with new gum growth. The membrane may be resorbable in some procedures, gradually melting away as the new bone grows in, or it can be permanent, requiring another procedure to pull it out once the patient's jaw is sufficiently rebuilt. The process of guided bone regeneration can be monitored with periodic physical exams and X-rays to check on bone growth.

It takes time for the replacement bone to grow in. While waiting, the patient may have temporary dental appliances to wear, but can experience some discomfort and may need to eat a modified diet. Once the GBR is over, additional time may be needed to fit appliances properly to the jaw. A doctor can provide an estimate on how long the guided bone regeneration process will take from start to finish during an initial patient meeting to help patients plan ahead.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By browncoat — On Jul 29, 2011

@umbra21 - I think they probably developed this technique for jaw bone regeneration for a couple of reasons. One, what with teeth being a vulnerable area, it's far more likely that someone is going to experience a bone infection in the jaw than anywhere else. Most bone is safely tucked away inside muscle and skin and has no chance to get infected (unless you have an injury of course). Usually bones are just broken. Not damaged in a way that would require them to be regrown.

And also, a jaw bone is more essential than most other bones. It needs to be a good shape for eating, breathing etc.

Plus, I hate to say it, but facial reconstruction of any kind is just really interesting for the public, so it's probably more likely to get funded.

By umbra21 — On Jul 28, 2011

The article refers to the patient feeling comfortable or uncomfortable, but I can tell you that any problems with your jaw are extremely painful.

I feel sympathy for anyone who has to go through this procedure. I'm sure it is painful and probably also unbearably itchy.

I also wonder why the jaw is the only area where you can currently do this? I wouldn't think it would make that much of a difference what kind of bone it was.

They are all pretty much made out of the same material, right?

By sweetPeas — On Jul 28, 2011

Keeping your teeth, gums, and jaw bone healthy, in addition to visiting the dentist regularly helps to avoid the need for guided bone regeneration.

But sometimes people need this treatment if they get an infection or inflammation, which attacks and destroys the jaw bone. Also, there has been some literature published, showing that some medications for osteoporosis have a side effect of causing this bone loss in the jaw.

This is a pretty serious effect from taking a drug. i hope they find out more about this.

By B707 — On Jul 27, 2011

Regular dental care from childhood and daily personal care of teeth is really crucial in avoiding the loss of tissue and bone in the mouth. And, of course, a healthy diet is important. I used to think that an exam and cleaning once a year was enough, but I go every six months now.

It sounds like the guided bone regeneration procedure is long-term,and probably very expensive. And likely,not covered very well by insurance,if at all. I don't have any dental insurance. I would hate to go through all that, and have to pay for the whole thing.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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