Our dentist has advised us that our daughter needs a dental implant — a small titanium rod screwed into her jawbone upon which a fabricated tooth will later be attached. The socket of her missing tooth does not have enough bone for such an implant. Donor bone is used to fill the socket and make a secure site to hold the implant for the rest of her life.

In implant dentistry today, this donor bone usually comes from cadavers. The cadaver bone is highly processed so that it is no longer recognized by the body as foreign protein material and not rejected, and so that it should not carry the risk of infection.

What is the halachah on the use of cadaver bone graft material for dental implants and how is this situation dealt with today?


The issue of an implant from a deceased donor is extensively discussed by contemporary halachic authorities. There are many opinions, many sorts of implants, and many many variables involved. As such, you must personally speak to the rabbi of your community — and he might very well refer you to a rabbi who is an expert in this area of Jewish law — before making any decision. I will, however, give you a brief overview of the pertinent issues.

With regard to harvesting any organ from a dead body there are several halachic issues; among them are the prohibitions against desecration of a body, delaying burial, and benefiting from a corpse.

(This transplant can be further complicated with regard to a Kohen (priest), who may not come in contact with a dead body, which depending on the amount of bone used, may or may not be an issue.)

In the question at hand the organ has already been removed, and you are not the one removing it. Thus seemingly the primary germane issue would be the permissibility of deriving benefit from a dead body.

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein (1895-1986), the leading Halachic authority in his time, ruled that even in non-life-threatening situations, if it is extremely necessary one can have an organ transplant from a corpse.

One interesting approach to this issue is the ruling of Rabbi Unterman, the Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of Israel from 1964-73, that once the body accepts the foreign organ and "adopts" it as its own, the organ is not considered to be dead, rather it has been resurrected. Following this reasoning, the organ recipient is not benefiting from a dead organ!

As I prefaced these remarks, before making any decision you should consult with the rabbi of your community.

All the best,

Rabbi Baruch S. Davidson