What is a dental bone graft?

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Bone grafts are commonly used in many areas of medicine including dentistry to replace lost bone throughout the body. Dental bone grafts are done when your jawbone isn’t thick enough or is too soft to have a dental implant.¹

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How long does it take to complete dental bone graft recovery?

What is a bone graft? It can sound frightening, but the procedure is typically simple, and it’s done very frequently. If you need to have dental implants put in to restore missing teeth and there’s not enough bone in your jaw to support the implants then you may need a bone graft to make sure there is enough bone to hold the implant. Or, if you have advanced periodontal disease you may have lost so much of the alveolar ridge bone that supports your teeth that the ridge needs to be restored through a bone graft.²

Dental bone grafts are typically done by oral surgeons. The oral surgeon will remove a small piece of bone from another part of your jaw or from somewhere else in your body and surgically graft it to the existing bone that need to be strengthened. Then you will typically have to wait several weeks for the grafted bone and the existing bone to grow together, strengthening the overall bone and building up the bone so that it can support either an implant or your existing natural teeth.³ Sometimes other materials are used to bolster the existing bone instead of using bone from another part of the body.

The most common type of dental bone graft is called a socket graft. This is a graft that typically is done to help protect your existing jawbone or alveolar ridge bone. If you are missing a tooth or several teeth, your dentist may recommend a socket graft which will help brace up the bone underneath the missing tooth. That way you won’t have a high risk of ongoing bone loss in your jaw from the missing tooth.⁴

A dental bone graft is oral surgery and typically may take several weeks to thoroughly heal. If you are getting the graft done so that you can have implants put in your mouth, you may need to wait several months before you can have the implants installed in your mouth after a dental bone graft. If you have minor bone grating, it can be done at the same time as the implant surgery⁵.

Immediately after the surgery you will typically feel some pain as the aesthetic wears off, and you will likely be given some pain medication by the dentist in case you feel pain over the next few days. But if you take it easy and follow the surgeon’s recommendations you typically feel slight pain if any in the days following the surgery. Many people report some mild discomfort but not pain after a bone graft surgery.

However, you typically would need to be careful about what you eat and some other things while you are recovering. For the first few days after the bone graft, you typically should only be eating soft foods and drink lots of liquids. You typically won’t be able to eat solid food for several days so before your surgery make sure that the house is stocked with healing staples like soup. Make sure the soup is only warm and not hot though. Try to eat cool soft foods like ice cream, yogurt, or pudding and drink plenty of room temperature water or room temperature tea as indicated by your dentist. If your health and diet allows, you may consider protein shakes or protein drinks daily while you are recovering because it will typically be hard for you to get the protein and calories that you need when you’re only able to eat liquids or soft food.⁶

There is no set time for recovery after oral surgery. Factors like your age, your general health, and the extent of the surgery will all typically influence how long it takes your mouth to heal. Your oral surgeon will give you specific instructions for care after you have a dental bone graft. Your surgeon may also give you antibiotics to take for several weeks to prevent any infections after surgery. It’s important to follow your surgeon’s instructions and take any medication that they give you so that you can heal quickly and safely.

Is there pain for two weeks after a dental bone graft?

One of the biggest questions people have when they’re told they need to get a dental bone graft is if they are going to feel a lot of pain after the graft is done and while it’s healing. Everyone is different, and everyone’s mouth heals at a different rate. You may experience a little pain in the days after the bone graft but it typically shouldn’t be a lot of pain and it typically shouldn’t last more than a couple of days⁷. Your mouth and jaw might feel numb as a result of the healing process going on in your body, and you might have trouble swallowing for the first few days after the surgery.

If you’re experiencing pain two weeks after dental bone graft or if the pain you’re feeling is sharp, intense, or is accompanied by fever you should call your oral surgeon because you may have a complication from the surgery or an infection. Be sure that you take all of the antibiotics or other medications that the surgeon gives you.

Dental bone graft material

When an oral surgeon is doing a bone graft to prepare your jaw for an implant they may use several different materials to create a strong enough base to support that implant. In each type of bone graft the oral surgeon doing the graft typically will use a mixture of materials that they feel does the best job with the least amount of pain or discomfort.

Block bone⁸

For most block bone grafts mineralized bone fragments in a mix of large and small sizes mixed with bonding materials and other elements can be used instead of pieces of living transplanted bone. These mixtures typically can be customized to make sure that the surgeon gets the mix they feel will work best for the individual patient they are performing the graft on.

Socket graft

There is no consensus on the ideal type of bone grafting material. Most studies use either allograft or xenograft bone substitutes. Allografts are classified as either demineralized (DFDBA) or mineralized (FDBA) freeze-dried bone allograft⁹.

Sinus lift

Deproteinized bovine bone mineral (DBBM) is commonly used in sinus lifts, either alone or mixed with autogenous bone or platelet rich plasma (PRP)¹⁰.

What to typically expect after a dental bone graft

Now you’re probably wondering what to expect after a dental bone graft. Dental bone graft recovery is typically a slow process. Oral surgery is surgery, so it will typically take some time to recover from. For the first couple of days after the surgery you should take it easy and not participate in any heavy workouts or sports as instructed by your dentist. You will typically need to rest and stay in bed or on the couch as much as possible. Avoid solid foods for a few days to a week unless you’re eating soft and cool foods like pudding or yogurt under your doctor’s supervision.

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Brought to you by The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America (Guardian), New York, NY. Material discussed is meant for general illustration and/or informational purposes only and it is not to be construed as tax, legal, investment or medical advice and is not intended to influence any reader’s decision to select, enroll in or disenroll from a Medicare plan. This is not dental care advice and should not be substituted for regular consultation with your dentist. If you have any concerns about your dental health, please contact your dentist's office.


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  1. https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/dental-implant-surgery/about/pac-20384622, 2019

  2. https://www.medtronic.com/us-en/patients/treatments-therapies/bone-grafting-dental/what-is-it.html, accessed January 2021

  3. https://dentalcareofpomona.com/what-to-expect-after-dental-bone-graft, accessed January 2021

  4. https://dentaldepot.net/everything-you-need-to-know-about-bone-grafting-for-dental-implants, accessed January 2021

  5. https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/dental-implant-surgery/about/pac-20384622, 2019

  6. https://www.oregonoralsurgery.com/instructions/after-bone-grafting, accessed January 2021

  7. https://dentaldepot.net/everything-you-need-to-know-about-bone-grafting-for-dental-implants, accessed January 2021

  8. https://glidewelldental.com/education/inclusive-dental-implant-magazine/volume-7-issue-3/bone-grafting-experts-think, 2016

  9. https://glidewelldental.com/education/chairside-dental-magazine/volume-14-issue-3/socket-grafting-protocol, 2019

  10. https://www.hindawi.com/journals/bmri/2017/9164156, 2019