What is a dental bone graft? And how much does this procedure cost?

Peter March

Written by Peter March DDS, Peter Dégallier RDH, Nichole McKenna DDS, Richard Hattaway DDS, Greg Grobmyer DDS

A dental bone graft is a procedure that aims to augment the density and volume of the jawbone. It is a preparatory one, which enables the dentist to mount restorations. Grafting does, however, come with larger costs and a longer treatment period.

If you are planning dental implants or an extraction, you might need grafting. Different materials can be used depending on the patient's health. Have a look at what the procedure looks like, the costs, and what the possible complications include.

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When are teeth bone grafts necessary?

Multiple dental implants in jaw

Picture by Authority Dental under CC 2.0 license

Tooth bone grafting, or ridge augmentation, is necessary in cases when the bone is too thin to support dentition or a restoration, typically an implant and crown. This can happen because of bone loss. The main risk factors are:

  • aging,
  • tooth loss,
  • genetic or developmental defects,
  • trauma or injury,
  • untreated periodontal disease, and
  • a worn-down alveolar ridge (e.g. due to ill-fitting dentures).

Therefore teeth bone grafting is typically recommended in three situations:

  • directly after tooth extraction: to prevent the bone from being reabsorbed by the body,
  • in patients with untreated gum disease: to increase the chances of keeping loose teeth, and
  • before dental implantation: to prepare a stable base for tooth restoration.

A bone graft for a tooth implant is the most common reason, as such restoration needs a solid foundation. At least 1mm of bone tissue is required for safe implantation. The patient will need 1.5mm if the implant is placed next to a tooth or even 3mm when mounted next to another implant.

Bone grafting is conducted in over half of the patients just before implant placement, sometimes on the same day. Most often, however, it is recommended that you leave 4-6 months between the surgical procedures. This allows the material to integrate with the bone for a stable base.

Tooth bone graft notably raises the final cost of the dental implant process. On the other hand, it greatly increases implant success rate. It’s worth talking to your dentist about the possibility of going with zygoma implants instead. This may allow you to avoid bone grafting.

A close look at the dental bone graft cost

The average price of dental bone grafting in the US is $600, however dental bone graft cost near you may range from $250 up to $1,100.

Final cost is dependent on:

If the bone is sourced from your body, you might have to pay for hospitalization twice.

Eric Moryoussef

Eric Moryoussef, DDS

You are going to invest a lot of money towards a dental implant. It makes sense to do everything possible to make sure the implant is successful. Bone grafts can do so.

Bone grafting procedures are one of the most common additional costs when it comes to getting dental implants.

Dental bone grafting materials

Dental bone graft procedure

Picture by Authority Dental under CC 2.0 license

There are four types of grafting materials:

  • autograft: from the patient’s own body, the most popular places are from the chin or leg,
  • allograft: from a human donor, often from a licensed bone and tissue bank,
  • xenograft: from animal bone, usually from horses,
  • alloplast: from a non-biological material, for example a form of metal or plastic.

Which bone graft material is ultimately chosen is decided by the dentist performing the dental bone graft procedure. It depends on the situation in your mouth as well as on what resources are available to get the best results.

Peter March

Peter March, DDS

It is important to review the type of bone graft with the patients as they may have safety concerns or ethical or religious reasons for rejecting allografts or xenografts.

Dental bone grafting step-by-step

If an autogenous graft is used, it will likely be done by a specialist, not a general dentist, and will require general anesthesia, not just a local injection. Generally, the dental bone grafting procedure can be split up into five stages.

Preparation

The first part is always a thorough medical history check and composition of a treatment plan. You will need to visit the office to discuss what material is to be used for the graft. It's an opportunity to ask any questions you may have. Then, it’s time for action.

Anesthesia

You might have anesthesia administered before your primary procedure. A local injection or IV sedation are most commonly used. In case of dental anxiety, you may have to be completely put under.

It is likely that you will have to fast for some time before, especially if a deeper type of anesthetic is used. This can help prevent complications.

Extraction and/or bone sourcing

Your dentist will first source the bone if it is determined that it should come from your body. The graft itself should not cause any more discomfort than pulling a tooth.

The tooth is then removed, providing an extraction was scheduled.

Graft insertion

An anesthesiologist will monitor your vital signs during the operation if you go with general anesthesia. Before placing the sourced or artificial bone, the area will be thoroughly cleaned.

The dental bone grafting surgery itself is a short, simple procedure. Your surgeon will make an incision in the gum tissue if there was no extraction. He or she will then insert the grafting material into the socket.

Stitching

When the grafted material is in the alveolar bone, the surgeon will stitch up the wound and possibly apply a bandage. The space will be closed up with pins, plates, wires, or cables. Sometimes a titanium screw or splint is necessary to hold the tissue together.

If the bone was sourced from your body, that area will be sewn back together as well.

What to expect after dental bone graft

Dental bone graft recovery is mild. There may be some numbness. You are likely to be able to return home the same day. Depending on whether you had general anesthesia, somebody might have to drive you and you may have to take the day off work.

Overall, you will need about 4-6 months of dental bone grafting healing time in total. The material and the jaw need time to merge and grow. This period might be even longer, especially if you have a history of substance addictions or an oral condition. It also depends on the site of bone sourcing, if it came from your body.

Richard Hattaway

Richard Hattaway, DDS

Autografts from the chin can be a very uncomfortable recovery.

It is vital to adhere closely to your dentist’s instructions at the time of dental bone grafts recovery in order to prevent failure or complications. Symptoms that might cause discomfort, but are perfectly normal include:

  • gum or skin swelling,
  • draining from the surgical site,
  • slight bruising,
  • minor bleeding,
  • nausea from anesthesia,
  • pain in the affected area.

Use a cold compress and OTC pain relievers to manage these issues. You are unlikely to get an antibiotics prescription or need other medications if you are not prone to infections. Get plenty of sleep and take it easy for a couple of days.

Dental bone graft aftercare also includes consuming mainly soft foods while the mouth heals. Food high in calcium and vitamin D can help speed up recovery. Avoid smoking, excessive drinking, and mouthwash that contains alcohol.

After a few days or even weeks you can expect a follow-up visit, one that often includes X-rays. Those can confirm that an appropriate amount of bone growth has occurred and that your surgery was successful. You might also get stitches or staples removed at this time.

Signs of dental bone graft failure

A bone graft is considered failed if the material falls out due to a loose tooth or receded gums. You might feel some granules in your mouth for a few days after your surgery. This is not a cause for concern if it doesn’t happen consistently.

Failure of a bone graft is relatively rare as it is a low-risk procedure. Nonetheless, some complications are possible. Smokers, elders, patients with chronic medical conditions, those who chose an allograft, and those with severe infection before grafting are at particular risk.

The most common side effects are:

  • infection,
  • heavy bleeding,
  • blood clotting,
  • nerve damage,
  • gum recession, and
  • anesthesia-related complications.

Signs of a failed dental bone graft include draining, swelling, bleeding, or pain that lasts longer 3-5 days. If you notice these, schedule a consultation. You will probably have an X-ray that can confirm that everything is as it should be.

FAQ

How long does a dental bone graft procedure take?

Including the extraction, the whole procedure can take as little as 45 minutes. It might last longer if you go with a more complex type of anesthesia or if biological membranes need to be placed.

Do you need a bone graft for a dental implant?

A bone graft before dental implant surgery is not always compulsory, only in the presence of bone loss. Nonetheless, studies show that more than half of implant placement procedures are preceded by grafting.

A bone graft for a tooth implant makes the volume of the jaw larger, making the base more stable. The rod can be inserted deeper, making failure less likely.

Is bone graft necessary after tooth extraction?

A tooth extraction bone graft is performed when the removal has caused a lot of damage. This could be due to the fact that the tooth itself was big. It is also recommended if the roots were twisted in a way that occupied much jaw volume.

Can you get dental implants with bone loss?

Yes, it is possible. But in this case, bone grafting is necessary to increase bone volume. This creates a stable base in the bone structure for the implant. If your jaw is too thin or brittle, your implant is more likely to fail. The dentist will make the final decision about whether you are a candidate.

Is bone grafting painful?

There is not much dental bone graft pain after the procedure except a little soreness in the gums. You may not even need pain medications. Dentists often compare the recovery to what you feel like after a tooth extraction.

No doctor will perform bone grafting without proper sedation, however. Sometimes a local injection or laughing gas is enough. This is dependent on the size of the graft, the location, and whether you are going to be harvesting an autograft.

If you suffer from dental anxiety, you might have a stronger form of anesthesia.

What are possible dental bone grafting complications?

Risks of bone graft surgery aren't too serious and as long as you follow post-op instructions, aren't likely.

Dental bone grafting complications are mainly all about infections and nerve damage. The side effects of both may include loss of feeling in the mouth and a lack of a sense of taste.

An infection after dental bone graft is usually caused by the patient not following proper post-op instructions. Since the procedure is surgical, excellent oral hygiene is a must. Extra checkups are advised for smokers and people who have problems with consistent oral hygiene. Prevention is key.

If you feel dental bone graft stitches coming out, schedule a consultation. You may also experience draining, swelling, and bleeding in such a case.

References

  1. Periodontal (Gum) Disease: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments - NIDCR
  2. Bone Grafts For Implant Dentistry: The Basics - ResearchGate
  3. Frequency of bone graft in implant surgery - NCBI
  4. Bone-grafting materials in implant dentistry - PubMed
  5. Alveolar Ridge Augmentation: Comparison of Two Socket Graft Materials in Implant Cases - ResearchGate
  6. Bone grafts in dentistry - NCBI
  7. Bone Grafting: Sourcing, Timing, Strategies, and Alternatives - JOT
  8. Nutritional Aspects of Bone Health and Fracture Healing - NCBI