If your dentist has recommended a dental bone graft, you probably have several questions. Here’s everything you need to know about dental bone grafting.
If your dentist has recommended a dental bone graft, you might be a little nervous and probably have many questions, ranging from “What is a dental bone graft, and how can it help me?” to “Does it hurt?” Luckily, dental bone grafts sound scarier than they actually are. In reality, this is a relatively minor and regular procedure that can improve your dental health.
What Is A Dental Bone Graft?
Bone grafts repair and rebuild jawbone tissue wherever bone loss has occurred or additional support is required. Dental bone grafts involve making incisions to expose your jawbone and fusing it with new bone material, encouraging the development of new bone around the grafted bone.
Why Would You Need A Dental Bone Graft?
If you have suffered bone loss from untreated periodontitis, your dentist may suggest getting a bone graft to encourage new bone growth, support and stabilize your jaw, and prevent further tooth and bone loss. A bone graft can also stave off long-term health complications, such as heart disease. However, untreated periodontitis isn’t the only culprit behind bone loss. Older adults are at an increased risk of developing osteoporosis.
Similarly, tooth loss can result in a reduction of bone in your jaw and sagging facial features. The alveolar bone will atrophy, which can lead to jawbone loss. As such, a graft can restore your appearance and support tooth replacements.
If you need dental implants to replace missing teeth, you may need a bone graft first. A strong, thick jawbone is required for dental implants, as these implants must bond with your bone.
What Are the Different Types of Dental Bone Grafts?
There are several different types of dental bone grafts, including:
- Autografts: Often considered the “gold standard,” autografts are a great option for many patients. In an autograft, the bone is usually sourced from the back of your jaw (block bone grafts), your tibia, or your hip.
- Allografts: Allografts use a carefully sanitized bone from a human donor (likely a cadaver), saving you the hassle of a second surgical incision.
- Xenografts: Xenografts use bone from an animal, like a cow or pig.
- Alloplastic grafts: These bone grafts use a synthetic material composed of hydroxyapatite, calcium sodium phosphosilicate, or calcium phosphate.
- Socket grafts: During a tooth extraction, you may also receive a socket graft to prevent a collapsed socket, your body from reabsorbing bone from near the missing tooth, and alveolar bone atrophy.
- Sinus Lifts: If you’ve lost any upper molars and your sinus has started to shift downward, your dentist may recommend a sinus lift. Not only will a sinus lift restore your sinus to normal, but it can also repair the gap left by missing teeth and increase upper jaw stability.
- Lateral ridge preservation grafts: If you need to increase your jawbone’s width to accommodate a dental implant, you may need a lateral preservation graft.
What Happens During the Bone Grafting Procedure?
Depending on the type of anesthesia your dentist provides, you may need to abstain from eating or drinking for eight to twelve hours before your appointment. Also, inform your dentist of any medications you are taking, as blood thinners can result in bleeding complications.
There are several different types of bone grafting, but most bone graft surgeries are outpatient procedures that can be completed in under two hours. Your dentist will administer anesthesia, clean the area, and monitor your vital signs. They will then make an incision, place the new bone material, and secure the graft with screws, a dissolvable adhesive material, or a membrane before sewing up the incision. If you’re receiving an autograft, a second incision must be made to retrieve bone from another area of your body before the grafting begins.
Will It Hurt?
Most patients are under sedation throughout the bone grafting process, so you won’t feel pain, though you may experience minimal pain and swelling after the anesthesia wears off.
If you do experience pain or swelling in the days following your procedure, try applying ice packs, eating soft foods, taking over-the-counter pain relievers or anti-inflammatories, and keeping your head elevated when sleeping. Avoid eating hard foods and drinking hot liquids.
What Happens During the Bone Graft Healing Process?
After grafting, your dentist will likely pack gauze around the incision in your mouth and give you antibiotics to prevent any infections. If necessary, they may also recommend you take an anti-inflammatory drug to reduce swelling, follow a liquid diet, or only eat soft foods during recovery. Luckily, most grafts only require a small amount of bone, keeping any discomfort brief and to a minimum.
If you’re planning to undergo dental implant surgery after your bone graft, you’ll need to wait until the bones in your mouth fuse with and continue to develop around the graft, which can take a few months. Continue to check in regularly with your dentist until they decide that your bones are strong enough for a dental implant. Even if you aren’t planning to have a dental implant, it’s essential to visit your dentist for regular checkups during the healing process.
Grafting is generally safe, but it’s also a surgical procedure, meaning there’s the risk of infection. However, you can mitigate your risk of infection by diligently taking any dentist-recommended antibiotics. Other rare complications include nerve damage, blood clots, anesthesia complications, and a rejection of the bone graft.
How Long Does It Take To Recover From A Dental Bone Graft?
Everyone heals at different rates, so there is no set recovery time frame. Generally, it takes three to twelve months for bone grafts to fuse with the bones already inside the mouth and for a jaw to become strong enough for implants. Luckily, your jaw will start to feel normal within a few weeks of your surgery.
Dental Bone Grafts At Espire
If you need a dental bone graft to rectify bone loss and live in the San Diego area, visit Espire’s La Mesa location! Contact us today to schedule an appointment and find out if a dental bone graft is right for you. Our experienced dentists and oral surgeons can help repair and rebuild your jawbone tissue.