Dental bone grafting: Why is it done, types, risks and benefits?

A dental bone graft is a procedure performed to increase the amount of bone in a part of the jaw where bone has been lost or where additional support is needed. Bone may be taken from elsewhere in the body and surgically fused to existing bone in the jaw. Sometimes, synthetic bone material is used. A dental bone graft is sometimes needed if further procedures, such as dental implants, are necessary or if bone loss is affecting the health of nearby gums and teeth.

Dental bone graft

Bone grafts, also known as block grafts are a simple procedure carried out by an oral surgeon. Bone grafts increase the width and height of the bone at the implant site (where the implant needs to be placed.). The surgeon performs a bone graft by using the bone graft tissue or material and attaching it to the deficient bone area. The bone graft material contains collagen and proteins that also encourage bone growth. There are different types of bone grafts as well as different types of procedures performed for the upper and lower jaw.

Candidates for dental bone grafting

Here are some of the most common reasons you may need a dental bone graft.

Implants for missing teeth 

People who are going to receive implants in place of missing teeth are common candidates for dental bone grafts. Dental implants are artificial roots shaped like screws that are placed in the jawbone. A crown that matches nearby teeth is then placed atop the implant.

Often, bone grafting is necessary to provide a strong enough base for an implant.

Tooth loss or gum disease 

Even if you’re not receiving an implant, dental bone grafting may be necessary to support a section of the jaw that has lost bone because of tooth loss or gum disease.

Bone loss can start to affect nearby teeth and gum tissue. Stabilizing 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 isn’t managed effectively, it can lead to further tooth loss and even heart disease.

Bone loss

Other candidates for dental bone grafts include those whose appearance has been affected by bone loss. Losing bone mass in the jaw can cause the face to look shorter than it used to.

If the lower jawbone loses bone mass, it can appear to protrude forward. Without healthy bone structure underneath them, the lips and muscles around them can change in appearance. The skin in the jaw area can appear more wrinkled.

Bone loss in the jaw is more common among older adults, just as the odds of developing the bone-thinning condition osteoporosis increase as you get older.

But a person of any age who has suffered an injury to the jaw or experienced problems related to poor dental hygiene or other health problems, such as major infections, may need a dental bone graft, too.

Benefits of dental bone grafts

Dental bone grafts can increase your eligibility for dental implants and other restorative treatments. This procedure restores your jaw to its original form following trauma, tooth loss or gum (periodontal) disease.

Types of dental bone grafts materials

  • Autografts. This involves bone from your own body, such as from your hip or jaw.
  • Allografts. This graft uses bone from a different person, usually a cadaver.
  • Xenografts. This involves bone from another species, such as a cow, pig, or coral.
  • Alloplasts. This deals with synthetic material, such as calcium phosphate or calcium sodium phosphosilicate (Bioglass).

Different Types of Dental Bone Graft Procedure

Different Types of Dental Bone Graft Procedure

Socket graft 

This is the most common type of bone graft for a dental implant. Its purpose is to protect the alveolar bone and prevent its deterioration. The procedure places new bone directly in the socket where the tooth has been removed. It stabilizes the socket as the area heals and provides a firm base for the dental implant.

Block Bone Graft 

The jaw can have defects if it has been subject to a significant injury from an accident or other trauma. In this case, your surgeon will remove a large “block” of bone from the back of your jaw and hold it in place with titanium screws until it bonds with the surrounding bone tissue. Once the tissue and gums heal, dental implants can then be inserted.

Lateral Ridge Preservation Graft 

If a patient’s jaw is not wide enough to hold dental implants, human bone may be used to increase the jaw’s width and enable the implant process to continue.

Sinus Lift Procedure

The upper jaw is typically not stable enough to hold a dental implant on its ownIn this case, equine bones (which are similar to human bones) may be used to build a base for dental implants. They promote bone growth in the sinus area and create added support for the sinus cavity.

Periodontal bone graft

Infection from gum disease can erode the bone that supports the teeth. This can cause the teeth to become loose. A periodontal bone graft is placed around an existing tooth to reduce mobility and provide additional support.

What to expect

What to expect

Before the procedure

To evaluate a patient’s bone mass, a patient will need a CT scan, which is a computerized tomography. This advanced X-ray facility shows 3-dimensional photos of bone mass. A CT scan enables a dentist to see the density of bone, the height, your anatomical structure and more. This will enable your dentist to evaluate your suitability for dental Implant treatment as well as any additional procedures you may need. Next, your dentist will discuss your treatment options with you and create a personalized treatment plan to meet your needs.

During dental bone graft surgery 

First, your dental provider will numb the area with local anesthetic. Next, they’ll create a small incision in your gums. Gum tissue is moved back slightly so that the jawbone is visible. After cleaning and disinfecting the area, your dentist adds bone grafting material to repair the defect. In many cases, the bone graft is covered with a membrane for additional protection. Finally, the gum tissue is repositioned and the incision is closed with stitches.

After a dental bone graft 

While time-consuming, bone grafts can be an essential and necessary part of any implant process. After surgery, patients may experience typical discomfort, such as gum or skin swelling or bruising and minor bleeding, but these common side effects dissipate quickly. There are also some diet restrictions, such as only being able to consume soft foods while the mouth heals, following each stage of the bone graft and implant procedure.

Risks or complications of dental bone grafts

Bone grafts in your mouth are generally safe. However, the procedure carries some risks, including:

  • Infection.
  • Heavy bleeding.
  • Nerve damage.
  • Complications from anesthesia.


Can dental bone grafts fail?

Dental bone grafts have impressively high success rates. However, as with any procedure, failure is a possibility — especially among people who smoke or have certain medical conditions. Signs of dental bone graft failure include:

  • Pain or swelling that worsens after the first week.
  • Pus or drainage from the bone graft site.
  • Gum recession (when the gums pull away from the teeth).
  • No improvement in jawbone volume.

How painful is a dental bone graft?

Most people who have dental bone grafts report little to no pain. Just be sure you take all medications as prescribed and follow your post-operative instructions closely.

How long is a dental bone graft downtime?

In most cases, people can return to work or school the day after the procedure. If you choose sedation, you may need to take an extra day or two to recover at home.

How common are dental bone grafts? 

Dental bone grafts are extremely common. They may be performed by a general dentist or a specialist, such as a periodontist or an oral surgeon.

How much does a dental bone graft cost? 

The costs of a dental bone graft can vary considerably. The complexity of the procedure and the material used are the two main factors influencing the cost. Many insurance providers, including Medicare, don’t cover dental bone grafts in most circumstances.

If your doctor determines that the procedure is medically necessary, your insurer may cover part of the procedure. If the grafting is for cosmetic reasons, it’s unlikely you’ll receive any insurance assistance.