Bone grafting

Bone grafts are sometimes required before you have an implant placed. We know this may sound daunting, but it’s a fairly common procedure.

A dental implant is placed directly into your jawbone, so there needs to be enough bone to hold it in place for the implant to be successful. If there isn’t, a bone graft ensures you have a solid base for your implant.

What is a bone graft?

Bone grafting is a surgical procedure to replace bone that surrounds the root of a tooth, making it possible for you to have an implant if you don’t have enough natural bone in your jaw. The material can be bone taken from another part of your jaw, somewhere else in your body or from synthetic material.

Unlike some other types of body tissue, bone can regenerate in the right conditions. A graft makes this process possible, while helping to hold your implant and existing teeth in place. Over time, your own bone will grow to replace the graft material.

Once the site around the graft has successfully healed, and providing you don’t need any other supporting treatments, you’ll be ready to have your implant placed.

How do I know if I’ll need a bone graft?

Your dentist will advise you on whether you need a bone graft when you visit them for a consultation. There are many reasons why you may not have enough bone to hold an implant securely in place, but you might need a bone graft if:

  • Your teeth are loose or unstable, or you suffer from gum disease. Gum disease can break down gum and bone tissue
  • You had a tooth extracted some time ago. The gap left following an extraction can sometimes affect the teeth on either side and the bone can begin to deteriorate
  • You’ve had lots of infections in your mouth. This can lead to bone loss over time
  • You’ve had an injury to your mouth. The impact could have led to bone loss

What happens during the procedure?

Bone grafts can usually be performed in your local practice under local anaesthetic. You may want to consider treatment under sedation if you experience dental anxiety.

If a large graft is necessary, the bone may be surgically grafted from another part of your body, such as your hip or shin. In this case, the procedure will be done in hospital under general anaesthetic.

Your dentist or surgeon will lift the gum tissue away from the area, place the graft and secure it. Your gum will then be stitched back over the graft. This procedure usually takes an hour to an hour and a half.

This procedure doesn't sound particularly pleasant, but it’s fairly common and your implant dentist will talk you through the entire process and can answer any questions.

Your stitches will be removed about a week later. It will take between three and nine months for the graft to knit into your own bone, depending on the type of graft procedure you had. Then you’ll be ready to have your implant placed.

How do you care for a bone graft?

Your dentist will give you clear guidance on how to care for your bone graft following the procedure. Success rates for bone grafts are very high when the bone grafting is carried out by a trained and experienced implant dentist or surgeon, and if you follow the aftercare instructions carefully.

As with any surgical procedure, you may experience some discomfort after having your bone graft, but you shouldn’t experience any more pain than if you’d had a tooth extracted. You can usually manage this with paracetamol or ibuprofen, but your dentist may also prescribe antibiotics and anti-inflammatories.

Are there different types of bone graft?

There are a number of types of bone grafting, which include:

  • Socket preservation: If you need to have a tooth removed before having your implant placed, your implant dentist or surgeon will fill the socket that remains after extraction with graft material to prevent the jawbone in that area losing thickness. If socket preservation isn’t done when your tooth is taken out, the bone will degenerate within weeks of the extraction. This can affect your appearance and you might have to have other procedures later down the line
  • Guided bone regeneration: This is where a space is made between your gum and jawbone, and a collagen membrane is placed along the gum to ensure that gum tissue does not grow back into the space. Tiny particles of bone-grafting material are placed in the space created to encourage new bone growth. Collagen is a natural substance and the membranes are absorbed by your body within three months
  • Block bone graft: This is undertaken to restore the natural shape of your jaw when you have severe bone loss. This procedure usually uses bone taken from another part of your own jaw
  • Ridge preservation: The section of the jaw containing the sockets for the roots of your teeth is called the alveolar ridge. If this ridge is too narrow, it will split, and a graft will be placed within the gap to widen it. Your new implant can usually be inserted immediately into your new ridge following the procedure

All our implant dentists have undergone further postgraduate training and are fully qualified to offer implant treatment. At your consultation, your dentist will decide what type of graft you’ll need and talk you through what will happen during the procedure.

Are different methods used for bone grafting?

There are various methods used for bone grafting. These include:

  • Onlay bone graft: This method is usually used if you lost a tooth a long time ago. Your dentist or surgeon will apply the graft to the side or on top of your existing bone. You’ll be given time to heal and to allow your own bone to grow into the graft before your implants are placed
  • Block bone graft: Here, small blocks of bone are fitted into the area that needs to be strengthened and secured with bone screws. Once the site of the bone graft has healed, the screws are removed, and your implants can be placed
  • Particulate bone graft: This technique uses tiny particles of spongy and compact bone matter to quickly integrate with your existing bone. It can heal quicker than other methods of bone grafting

What materials are used for dental bone grafts?

Your dentist will use bone material obtained from the following sources:

  • Your own bone, usually taken from your hip, shin or another part of your body
  • Bone made from animal biomaterials
  • Artificial bone created in a laboratory

How much is a dental bone graft?

The costs for bone grafts vary depending on your individual needs. Your dentist will do a thorough clinical assessment to determine the specific treatment you need before you start any treatment. They will talk you through the exact costs when you see them for your initial consultation, and you’ll be able to ask any questions you may have.

Book an implant consultation today

If you’re interested in implants or would like to speak to your local practice about bone grafts, find your nearest implant dentist below and get in touch - we'll be happy to help.

More about bone grafting and implants

Find detailed information on how to look after your bone graft, information about other supporting treatments and answers to your frequently asked implant questions.

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