A dental bone graft is a procedure to increase the amount of bone in a part of the jaw where bone is lost or additional support is needed.
Bone can be taken from any part of the body and surgically fused to existing bone in the jaw. Sometimes synthetic bone material is used.
A dental bone graft is sometimes required if further procedures such as dental implants are necessary or if bone loss is affecting the health of nearby gums and teeth.
Read on to learn how dental bone grafts work, how the procedure is performed, and what results you can expect from this procedure.
What exactly is a dental bone graft?
There are several ways to graft dental bone, but the basic procedure is the same: A dentist or oral surgeon makes an incision in the jaw and grafts (connects) other bone material to the jaw.
A dental bone graft is usually done if one or more adult teeth have been lost or if there is gum disease. Both of these conditions can cause bone loss in the jaw.
The preferred approach for dental bone grafting is to use your own bone from the hip, shin, or back of the jaw. This is known as autograft. Autografts are often the “gold standard” because they increase bone support in the jaw and promote faster healing and new bone formation.
Below are four sources of material for the graft, each with its own advantages and risks.
Types of dental bone grafts
Autografts: This includes bone from your own body, such as your hip or jaw.
Allografts: This graft uses bone from a different person, usually a cadaver.
Xenografts: This includes bone from another species such as a cow, pig, or coral.
Alloplasts: This relates to synthetic materials such as calcium phosphate or calcium sodium phosphosilicate (Bioglass).
Who is a good candidate for a dental bone graft?
Here are some of the most common reasons why you might need a dental bone graft.
Implants for missing teeth
People who will have implants to replace their missing teeth are common candidates for dental bone grafting.
Dental implants are screw-shaped artificial roots placed in the jawbone. A crown that matches nearby teeth is then placed over the implant.
Oftentimes, a bone graft is required to provide a strong enough foundation for an implant. In a 2016 study of nearly 800 people who received implants, more than half of the implant sites required bone grafting first.
Tooth loss or gum disease
Even if you don’t have an implant, you may need a dental bone graft to support a portion of your jawbone due to tooth loss or gum disease.
Bone loss can begin to affect nearby teeth and gum tissue. Fixing the jaw with a bone graft can help prevent further bone loss and the long-term health complications that come with it.
If gum disease is not managed effectively, it can lead to further tooth loss and even heart disease.
Other candidates for dental bone grafting include those whose appearance has been affected by bone loss. Losing bone mass in the jaw can cause the face to appear shorter than before.
If the mandible loses bone mass, it may appear to protrude forward. Without a healthy bone structure underneath, the appearance of the lips and surrounding muscles may change. The skin in the chin area may appear more wrinkled.
Bone loss in the jaw is more common among older adults, as the likelihood of developing osteoporosis to the bone-thinning condition increases as they age.
However, a person of any age who has problems with a jaw injury or other health issues, such as poor dental hygiene or major infections, may also need the dentifrice vaccine.
How painful is a dental bone graft?
A dental bone graft is a relatively minor procedure that does not involve removing bone material from the patient’s own body.
You will be anesthetized during the procedure so you will not feel any pain until the anesthesia wears off. Then, the pain can usually be tolerated with over-the-counter pain relievers for the next few days.
Prescription pain medications may also be appropriate. Depending on how much work has been done, you may experience some discomfort for a few weeks during recovery.
However, if bone material is obtained from your own body, recovery may be more painful since the surgery is done in two places (for example, your hip and jaw).
The amount of bone removed and subsequently grafted is usually quite small, so the duration of discomfort should be short.
How do you prepare for a dental bone graft?
You do not need to do much for tooth bone graft preparation. Here is a quick checklist of what to do before the procedure:
Depending on the type of anesthesia you will receive, avoid eating or drinking anything for 8 to 12 hours before the procedure.
Consult your doctor about the drugs you use, especially blood thinners that increase the risk of bleeding complications during surgery.
Make arrangements to go home later, as you will be stunned after the procedure.
How is the tooth bone graft procedure done?
The typical dental bone graft is done as follows:
Before the procedure, you will receive anesthesia and your vital signs will be monitored.
The dental technician will clean the affected area.
Your surgeon will make an incision in the gum to separate it from the bone where the graft will be placed.
The surgeon will place the bone material between the two sections of bone that need to grow together.
The bone graft is fixed with a soluble adhesive material or membrane or special screws.
The incision is then sutured to begin healing.
There are three main types of dental bone graft procedures. Each is useful for different conditions affecting the jaw.
Block Bone Graft
Bone is typically taken from the back of the jawbone, near your wisdom teeth (or where your wisdom teeth used to be).
This is usually done in cases where there is significant bone loss towards the front of the jaw.
When bone loss occurs near the maxillary teeth, a bone graft is performed to restore maxillary stability while the sinuses are also moved back to their proper positions, allowing the sinuses to move down.
Bone grafting is done during tooth extraction to prevent bone loss that may occur after tooth extraction.
How is the recovery and aftercare for a dental bone graft?
After the dentin graft, you will likely leave the dentist’s office by wrapping gauze around the incision in your mouth.
You should be given instructions to change the dressing within the next 24 hours and a prescription for an antibiotic to help prevent an infection. A prescription for pain relievers may also be given.
Other postoperative care tips include:
.applying ice packs to help reduce pain and swelling for the first day or two
.eating soft, bland foods for the first few days
.Sleeping with your head slightly elevated for the first night or two to help prevent blood pooling at the incision site
During the initial recovery period, you should avoid:
.hot liquids such as coffee or soup
.hard or crunchy foods, such as nuts
.any physical activity, such as contact sports, that could compromise the incision
After a week or so, the dull pain in your jaw should be replaced by mild discomfort and should feel like it’s improving.
Your jaw should start to feel normal after a few weeks. However, it usually takes several months for your jaw to become strong enough to receive the implants.
During this time, schedule periodic visits to your dentist, including at least one X-ray, to check for healing.
What are the side effects of dental bone graft?
The most common side effects of a tooth bone graft are pain and swelling.
But these can be kept to a minimum with ice packs and over-the-counter pain relievers. Prescription medications may be necessary for some people.
Other normal side effects include minor bleeding and difficulty chewing and speaking for the first few days.
Although this procedure is generally safe and well tolerated, there are always risks.
Infection is a concern with any surgical procedure, so taking the full course of antibiotics is extremely important. Other unusual (but serious) potential side effects include:
.bone graft rejection
When should I see my doctor?
Dental bone grafting is generally a safe and effective procedure. But when complications develop, see your doctor as soon as possible. Problem symptoms include:
.pain that persists or worsens for several days after the procedure
.redness and increased swelling around the gums
.persistent tingling or numbness
.a loosening implant that indicates a previous bone graft has failed
Dental bone grafts are done to help prevent long-term health problems associated with tooth loss and gum disease, and to provide adequate bone material to support dental implants.
This common procedure is generally safe and well tolerated, but has risks of side effects and complications.
Following your doctor’s guidance during recovery will help minimize your chances of having problems after the procedure and increase your odds of maintaining good dental health for years to come.