Bone graft. That just sounds terrifying right?
And once you learn what a bone graft is, you might still be terrified. But there’s actually no reason to be scared — dental professionals do them all the time.
But just prepare yourself for learning what a graft is….Creative Commons
Are Bone Grafts Necessary For Implants?
Bone grafting is a procedure where a surgeon places bone at the site where an implant will be placed in order to create a thicker area to support it.
Much like how one needs to place a screw into the stud of a wall rather than the thin and weak drywall, implants need to be supported by bone of sufficient thickness and density in order to provide long-term reliable support for the dental restoration.
Although they are often used, bone grafts are not always necessary for dental implants.
Your oral surgeon will probably talk with you about getting a graft if they see that your jawbone is too thin, soft, or insufficient to be a foundation for the implant. If there’s not enough bone, the implant could fail over time.
Will A Bone Graft Affect The Length Of The Treatment?
If you do end up getting a bone graft, it will affect the length of the overall treatment. Because getting a dental implant requires multiple steps and procedures, adding an additional surgery will make the whole process take longer.
Grafting may extend your total treatment time by several months, but that is dependent upon how much grafting is done, where it is placed, and the type of dental restoration you are planned for.
But for some people, a bone graft is a needed step.
Types Of Dental Implant Bone Grafts
The main four places a surgeon can get a bone graft are:
- The patient
- An animal
- Synthetic materials
- A cadaver
The bone for a graft may come from your own body in areas such as the chin, the back of the jaw, the hip, or from the leg. These are known as autografts as they come from within your own body.
Sometimes bone can come from someone else, such as cadaver sourced bone – an allograft.
This kind of bone is specially treated to eliminate any bacteria or other biological materials so the graft material is purely bone particles and nothing else. Because this bone is completely sterile, there is little to no risk of rejection and the bone grafting procedure can be done without a secondary surgical site on your body.
Bone can also come from animal sources such as cows and are known as xenografts. The bone from animal sources is just like the bone from a human source and undergoes treatments to render it safe for use.
Where the dentist decides to get the bone graft depends on what they believe will work best for each patient. There are also different sizes of bone grafts, depending on what’s needed.
Minor Bone Graft
After the dentist has removed any damaged teeth, they may use a minor bone graft. This is when human bone in the form of granules (looks like coarse sand) is placed into the empty tooth socket.
Then they cover the socket with a protective collagen membrane using stitches. Fortunately, it doesn’t usually add significantly to your recovery time.
In the following weeks, the natural bone will form inside the socket, keeping the original bone height.
Medium Bone Graft
A medium bone graft is when more significant bone loss has happened and both height and width need to be restored.
The dentist will make a small incision in the affected bone then insert bone granules. This will help build up the area, giving it width and height as it heals.
Major Bone Graft
When a person has been missing multiple teeth for a long time, often they will have experienced severe bone loss. This is when their dentist may suggest a major bone graft.
Rather than using mainly bone granules, the dentist will opt to use a block of bone from elsewhere in your body. They will attach the bone using screws and plates, providing a foundation for a dental implant.
Then they use some bone granules to fill in the spots they need to create a smooth ridge shape. Then they put a membrane over the whole area using stitches — this takes months to heal and before the dentist can place any implant.
Another type of bone graft is called a sinus lift. If a person has extreme bone loss on their upper jaw, they may need a bone graft as the sinuses are right above the upper teeth and the dentist can’t drill into the sinuses.
Obviously, dental implants can’t be secured using a hollow cavity (sinus), so the dentist will need to raise the floor of the sinus to give the area more bone surface to use.
They will make an incision in the gum tissue, creating a little window into the sinus cavity. The dentist will then carefully detach and lift the sinus membrane from the sinus walls. Then bone is placed between the membrane and the sinus floor.
Once there’s enough bone in the area, the dentist will place a collagen membrane to protect the inserted bone. Then the little window is closed up with stitches.
A sinus lift requires at least four months to fully heal before a dental implant can be placed.
What Happens After The Bone Grafting Procedure?
No matter how many stages your dental implant procedure takes, you will probably experience swelling of your gums and possibly face, potential bruising of your skin and gums, minimal bleeding, and pain and discomfort. This all means your body is healing itself, and it needs time to do so.
Your dentist may prescribe some medications to help in pain control, as well as antibiotics for preventing infection. Do follow your dentist’s directions and take medications as directed.
Avoid trying any alternative treatments or remedies without first discussing them with your dentist for they may have adverse reactions you may be unaware of.
If any of these signs concern you or seem to be excessive, you can contact your dentist for advice. They may increase your dosage of pain medication or offer some additional coping tips.
Dental Implant Bone Graft Recovery
As stated above, the recovery time can vary, taking anywhere from a few months to over a year. It depends on what your procedure involves, how the osseointegration stage fares, and the methods used. Your dentist should be able to give you a precise timeline based on your care.
Most dental implant procedures are successful — about 95% of them. But it’s still important to do everything you can to help the process at each stage.
For example, your doctor may ask you to eat only soft foods so as to not put pressure on the surgical sites. Plus, you can keep up top-notch oral hygiene to help the healing process.
Smoking immediately after oral surgery is strongly discouraged. Tobacco smoke can interfere with the healing process and cause the graft to heal more slowly and possibly even fail.
Systemic health issues such as uncontrolled diabetes can also negatively affect the healing process. Your dentist can advise you about potential risk factors prior to the bone grafting procedure.
Here are some things you can do to take care of your dental implant as well as your natural teeth:
- Brush, floss, and rinse with non-alcoholic mouthwash 2-3 times a day. You can also get special dental implant tools that can reach where a toothbrush or floss cannot.
- See your dentist regularly, preferably every six months. This will help ensure your implant is healing properly and will continue to perform well.
- Avoid damaging the implant by not eating hard foods, like ice or hard candy. These types of things can break the crown. Also avoid tobacco and excessive caffeine as these can stain your natural and artificial teeth.
Dental Bone Graft Complications
After hearing about the details of the different types of bone grafts, you may be wondering: is bone grafting for dental implants safe?
Simply put, yes, they are safe when performed by a trained, licensed professional. Remember, almost every dental implant procedure is successful, and many of them involve bone grafts.
However, as with any surgery, bone grafts are not without their possible complications and risks. Even though they’re rare, complications can still occur.
Here are some potential risks you should be aware of:
- Damage to natural teeth, blood vessels, or nerves
- Numbness, tingling in gums, lips, and cheek
- Sinus problems (with upper jaw implants)
- Swelling, pain, bruising
Cost Of Bone Grafting
The cost of a bone graft can vary depending on the source and the amount of bone needed and whether the dentist is a specialist or not.
In most cases, a general dentist can perform the grafting and implanting procedure. However, in particularly complex cases, you may be referred to a dental specialist such as an oral surgeon, periodontist, or prosthodontist to have the procedure performed.
This can result in an increase in treatment costs compared to a general dentist, but it would be well worth the additional skill specialists have in their respective fields.
Typically, for a bone graft from another human, a cadaver, a cow, or from synthetic bone, the total cost ends up being between $200 and $1,200.
As for getting the bone graft from the patient’s own body, the total cost may be between $2,000 and $3,000. Keep in mind this involves two surgery sites, hospitalization, and an anesthesiologist.
In both cases, when the price of a bone graft is quoted to you, it usually includes the dental implant. Dental insurance usually won’t cover these costs as many insurance companies view dental implants as optional procedures mainly for cosmetic reasons.
However, if the dental implant is necessary after an injury or damage to a tooth, your general health insurance may cover the costs.
- A bone graft is when a surgeon puts bone from elsewhere into your jaw. It is not always necessary, but may be needed depending on the type of restorations your dentist has planned for you.
- There are four main types of bone grafts: minor, medium, major and sinus lift. Which one you get depends on how much bone is needed for a procedure.
- Like any surgery, a bone graft will lead to swelling, discomfort, and a period of healing time.
- Even though a bone graft can take several months to a year to heal, you can continue to care for your teeth to avoid lengthening that recovery time.
- As with any surgery, a bone graft can involve complications, like infection, numbness, swelling, and pain.
- If you need a bone graft for a dental implant, it can cost up to about $3,000, though some of that may be covered by your dental or health insurance.