Bone Grafting: What to Expect During and After Surgery

Know the details of bone grafting surgery

What you need to know before your bone grafting surgery.

Bone grafting surgery is a fairly common procedure used by dentists who offer prosthodontic services. While the term “bone graft surgery” may elicit a mental image of a serious in-hospital event, the typical dental bone graft is completed relatively quickly right in your dentist’s office.

If your dentist has mentioned that you may need a bone graft or you’ve read that dental implants might require this procedure, chances are you have a few questions.

Here is a rundown on what exactly a bone graft is, why you might need one, and what to expect before and after surgery.

What is a bone graft and why are they done?

A bone graft is a unique type of dental surgery used to improve the density and health of a person’s jawbone. It involves adding additional bone or bone synthetic directly into a pocket within the jawbone, which is created by the dentist during surgery. The added material fuses with the person’s jawbone, causing new bone formation during the healing process.

Bone grafts are a necessary step if a patient is interested in prosthodontic care but doesn’t have enough natural jawbone left for the procedure. There are many reasons a person may have experienced jawbone shrinkage, but the most common example is tooth loss.

What procedures require bone grafting surgery?

The most common reason a patient receives a bone graft is when they’ve experienced tooth loss in the past and are now interested in a dental implant.

Dental implants are a fantastic permanent solution for replacing missing teeth, but their success relies on the patient having a dense, healthy jawbone. By using a bone graft as a preliminary treatment, a dentist is able to help their patient regain strong bone and become a successful candidate for dental implant surgery.

A bone graft may be done right away if a person is having a tooth extracted and has already planned on receiving a dental implant. In this case, the dentist can perform the extraction and the bone graft at the same time.

Though less common, some forms of periodontal (gum) surgery may also require a bone graft. Periodontitis, a destructive, advanced form of gum disease, can damage the gum tissue, teeth, and the underlying bone structure. A dentist may include a bone graft and gum graft as part of a patient’s restorative treatment plan.

Some rarer situations in which a bone graft may be necessary are after a physical injury has caused bone damage or if a previous live infection degraded bone in the jaw.

Are there different types of bone grafts?

There are actually four different types of bone graft procedures, all of which are categorized by the material being used.

  1. Autografts: Donor bone comes from your own body (i.e. lower jaw).
  2. Allografts: Donor bone comes from a different person (i.e. cadaver).
  3. Xenografts: Donor bone comes from a different species (i.e. pig).
  4. Alloplasts: Donor material is synthetic (i.e. calcium phosphate).

All types of bone grafts are safe and have high success rates. Autografts are generally at the top of the list for success and have minimal complications as the bone is from your own body. Your dentist will choose the right type of bone graft based on your medical history and unique requirements.

What is the procedure like when you get bone grafting surgery?

The procedure for a bone graft will depend on the type of graft being performed.

For an autograft, surgery will be more invasive as you’ll have the donor bone harvested as well as the actual bone graft. Since there are two surgical sites, this procedure takes longer and patients will usually feel more post-surgery discomfort.

For the other three types of bone grafts, the process is much more simple as your dentist will have the donor material present and ready for grafting.

In all cases, you’ll be kept comfortably sedated during the process and completely numb around the surgical site. If you are under conscious sedation, you won’t feel a thing during surgery, aside from the touch of your dentist gently working in your mouth.

After the surgery is complete, you’ll be able to return home to relax and heal. Your dentist will provide detailed aftercare instructions and often a prescription for pain medication or an antibiotic to prevent infection.

Are there any risks with bone graft surgery?

Some possible risks of bone graft surgery include:

  • Bone graft rejection.
  • Infection of the surgical site.
  • Prolonged pain or swelling.
  • Nerve damage around the surgical site.

With that being said, bone graft surgery is considered a low-risk procedure. Though it is invasive, complications are fairly rare, especially among patients who have been thoroughly vetted for candidacy prior to surgery. This is why Dr. Staley performs thorough evaluations before any patient receives a bone graft.

How long does it take to heal after a bone graft?

Every person heals at a different pace, but it can take around three months for a typical bone graft to fully heal. While the site may look healed to the naked eye when you look at it in the mirror, the real healing process is taking place underneath. Once the donor material and jawbone have fully fused, you can then move forward with a dental implant.

During the healing process, it’s normal to feel mild discomfort or pain, as well as some swelling around the jaw and cheek. It’s important to follow your dentist’s aftercare instructions during this time to keep your discomfort to a minimum and ensure proper healing.

If you ever experience extreme pain, lasting pain, significant swelling, or any sign of infection, it’s crucial you contact your dentist right away.

Scheduling your bone graft surgery at Staley Dental in Boise.

Choosing an experienced, compassionate dentist skilled in prosthodontics will reduce your chances of complications and greatly improve your overall comfort and confidence. Dr. Staley goes above and beyond this level of care for his patients and has successfully performed numerous bone grafts for patients just like you.

If you still have questions about bone grafts or you’d like to schedule an appointment, you can do so by calling our Boise office or using this online form.