General Dentistry

Dental Bone Graft: What Is It, The Process And Healing Time

Published on 10/06/2024

If you have been told you need a bone graft, you might be curious to know what this treatment entails. Bone grafting is a common procedure in the dental industry as a way to increase bone density in the jaw.

This can help for a number of purposes, including improving outcomes for dental implant patients and helping to avoid the sunken appearance that is common with tooth loss.

There are many situations where a bone graft might be recommended, and as many methods and materials used for placing the graft. In this guide, we’re looking at the role of bone grafting in dentistry, what you can expect from the treatment plan and how long it will take to recover.

What is a bone graft?

A bone graft helps to increase bone density by creating the structure for the jaw bone to naturally regenerate and become stronger. This procedure works by placing a small piece of bone grafting material into a gap in your jaw bone and then leaving this to heal. Your bone will bond with the material and this will increase the volume and density of the jaw.

The grafting material could be taken from somewhere else in your own body, or it could be taken from a tissue donor. It could also be an animal tissue, or it could be synthetic. Your dentist will discuss the options available to you so that you feel comfortable with the final choice.

Once placed into the jaw bone, the area is covered with a membrane to allow it to heal. Your dentist might also use plasma-rich-platelet (PRP) infusion from your own blood to help facilitate healing.

Once completely healed, the bone will be indistinguishable from the surrounding bone and you’ll be ready to continue with your dental treatment plan.

Who needs a bone graft?

There are many reasons you might consider a bone graft to help increase bone density and volume in the jaw.

The first would be to help the jaw bone to heal after a tooth extraction. If you have lost a very large tooth, the gap will also be quite large, which might take a long time to heal. It could also lead to issues with the surrounding teeth in the future if your jaw bone shrinks.

Another reason to consider a bone graft would be to create enough jaw bone volume and density to support a dental implant. This is a common reason that patients are turned down for dental implants, so this treatment plan could help ensure you are eligible.

Bone grafting is also a common treatment plan following extreme gum disease which has led to damage of the jaw bone. This can help to rebuild the jaw bone and prevent further tooth loss.

If you have issues with your sinuses falling into the cavity left by a missing tooth, then bone grafting can be an important part of the sinus lift procedure. This will help to rebuild the sinus wall and can help to put a stop to sinus problems. 

And finally, bone grafting is also effective to help restore the dental arch before getting dentures. If the jaw has shrunk too much, you might struggle to wear dentures.

What is the process for placing a bone graft?

All treatment will be carried out under a local anaesthetic. You will be completely numb so you don’t feel any discomfort. 

Your dentist will expose the jaw bone and then create a small incision to place the grafting material. This is covered with a membrane to help promote healing. You’ll then need to follow the aftercare instructions to ensure the bone graft is able to heal correctly.

You might experience some discomfort as the anaesthesia wears off, but this should be easily managed with an over-the-counter pain medication such as ibuprofen or paracetamol. You might have some bruising and swelling, but this should soon pass. Your dentist may also recommend antibiotics to avoid the risk of an infection.

After a period of healing, you’ll return to the dentist for a follow-up X‑ray and perhaps a CT scan. This will help to confirm that the bone grafting has been successful and you can move forward to the next stage in your treatment plan.

What is the healing time for a bone graft?

You will start to feel better after around one week and you shouldn’t have any discomfort after two weeks. While you might start to feel better after this time, the total healing time for your bone graft will be much longer. 

Most people wait at least three months before their bone graft has completely healed, while others can take up to 9 months. This all depends on how quickly your body is able to regenerate the bone tissue.