While the need for bone grafting has been significantly reduced, it still holds its place. In most cases, it is now relegated to small and minimally invasive interventions that can be managed quite easily in an ambulance-type setting. Furthermore, while bone grafting of earlier years involved harvesting and using large quantities of the patient’s own bone, today we can often use processed bone that has been harvested from animals such as cows. These grafts are called xenografts and are generally comprised only of the mineral content of natural bone, have been sterilized and have had all organic material removed.
Using bovine bone (cow bone) as a graft material has become commonplace in most oral surgical offices today and has been a tried and proven technique for many years. A simplified explanation for the success of this form of grafting is that a bovine bone graft is placed to act as a placeholder. Initially, it mechanically prevents the collapse of the surrounding tissues, whether that is bone or soft tissue. Then, through a process called “guided tissue regeneration,” the human body is fooled biochemically to recognize the graft as natural bone and over time resorbs and replaces it with the patient’s own native bone.