About Dental Bone Grafts

Bone grafting is a surgical procedure that helps rebuild the jaw bone to help support dental implants. The goal of bone grafting is to preserve and enhance your existing bone or to rebuild bone that you may have lost over your lifetime. The bone graft improves the strength and stability of a dental implant. 

A dental bone graft is usually done when someone has lost bone due to periodontal disease or congenitally missing teeth. It may also be done if a person has had a tooth extraction without having a dental implant placed for a long time or is about to have a tooth extracted and needs to prepare for a dental implant.

The Benefits of a Graft

There are several benefits of bone grafting

  1. It helps to restore lost bone structure and helps prepare for dental implants.
  2. It strengthens your teeth so you can better carry out everyday activities such as chewing, biting, and speaking.
  3. It can also help to improve the appearance of your smile.

What Are The Risks?

While dental bone grafting can be a very effective solution for restoring dental implants, it comes with some risks.

These include:

  • Infection: This is the most common risk associated with bone grafting, and it occurs after surgery before the bone graft is healed.
  • Nerve damage: Bone grafting puts you at risk for nerve damage, resulting in numbness or tingling around the dental implant site area.
  • Allergic reaction to anesthesia: Your dentist will ask you about any allergies before dental bone grafting, as you may be at risk for an allergic reaction to the anesthesia used during the procedure.
  • Bleeding: You may experience some minor bleeding after bone grafting.
  • Swelling: Swelling and possible bruising after bone grafting is expected.

Bone Graft Materials

There are different types of grafts and bone grafting materials that are used to restore your smile:

  • Allograft: A piece of bone harvested from a human cadaver and then irradiated to make it safe to be transplanted into your mouth. It acts as a matrix or filler for your own bone to replace the allograft bone over time. Allografts are the most common type of dental bone graft. 
  • Autograft: A piece of natural bone that is taken from another part of your body (usually from your chin, knee, or hip) and transplanted into your mouth. Autografts can be an affective dental bone graft, but may not be used if there isn’t enough healthy tissue in that area of your body to provide a sufficient amount of bone material.
  • Xenograft: A dental bone graft created from bovine (cow) or porcine (pig) bones. These dental bone graft materials have a lower risk of tissue rejection and inflammation compared to allografts.
  • Alloplast: A synthetic bone graft made from man-made materials, such as hydroxyapatite or tricalcium phosphate. These materials are considered biocompatible, which means they are less likely to cause an allergic reaction or rejection by your body. This type of graft is not typically used for dental implants.

At AZ Max, we usually use a combination of allograft and xenograft bone grafting.

Bone Graft Techniques

There are several different dental bone grafting techniques used to rebuild bone for dental implants.

  • Ridge Preservation: A technique used immediately after a tooth extraction to preserve the ridge and socket of the extraction site. The bone graft material is placed into the empty socket left after the tooth has been removed.
  • Tunnel Graft:  A dental bone grafting technique used to rebuild a narrow ridge for placement of dental implants. A vertical incision is made in the gum tissue near the site for implant placement and a pocket is developed under the gum. Bone graft material is then used to fill the socket to grow width of bone.
  • Block Graft: A technique used to treat larger areas of bone loss. This type of dental bone graft is done by making an incision in the gum tissue and placing a block of bone graft secured with titanium screws in the site for implant placement.
  • Sinus Lift: A technique used to treat dental implants placed in the upper jaw when the sinus is so low that there is insufficient vertical bone height for an implant. This type of dental bone graft is done by making an incision in the gum tissue, making a window in the sinus and then lifting the sinus membrane to create a space for the bone graft material to be placed.

Candidates For Bone Grafts

Grafts are typically recommended for people who have experienced bone loss and resultant insufficient bone for implant placement. It is also sometimes recommended for people who have had dental trauma to rebuild the ridge.

Gum Disease

Bone grafting can also help treat dental gum disease, which is a common dental condition that affects millions of people. Gum disease occurs when plaque and tartar build up on your teeth, eventually causing the gums to recede and exposing the dental roots, leading to further dental decay and loss of dental structure, leading to dental implant failure.

Bone Loss

Bone loss is a common dental issue treated with dental bone grafting. Bone loss can make the face appear sunken or gaunt, and it can also cause difficulties with dental implants.

Bone loss in the jaw is more common in older adults. If a lower jaw loses mass, it can alter the appearance of the face affecting the lips and muscles in the face.


Patients on medications including bone density medications for osteoporosis or cancer are not good candidates for bone grafting procedures. Please discuss your medication lists with your surgeon.


Dental trauma can occur due to an accident or sports injury. Trauma to the teeth and jaw can result in dental bone loss, eventually requiring bone grafting to restore bone for placement of dental implants.

Dental Assistant educating patient about bone graphs using a model of a full set of teeth

The Procedure

An oral and maxillofacial surgeon performs bone grafting. The procedure is done under local anesthesia, IV sedation or general anesthesia.

  1. First, the dental surgeon will make an incision in the gum tissue to expose the underlying bone.
  2. Next, the dental bone graft material will be placed into the bony defect. The oral surgeon may use plates, screws, or other dental devices to hold the dental bone graft material in place.
  3. Finally, the incision in the gum tissue will be closed with sutures

Depending on the type of graft, it can take 3 to 6 months for the bone to grow, so please be patient during the healing process while your body recovers. The surgical site will feel bulky after the procedure; this is normal. Do not press on the site with your fingers or tongue. After surgery, it is essential to follow the post-operative instructions provided by your oral surgeon. This may include resting and limiting physical activity, avoiding certain foods and beverages, and cleaning the surgical site.

Restore Your Smile

The success rate for dental bone grafting is very high, with rates exceeding 95%. Bone grafts are typically very effective in helping to treat dental decay and dental implant failure. If you are experiencing dental decay and are a candidate for bone grafting, talk to one of our surgeons about the benefits of this procedure. With the right treatment and care, you can restore dental function and improve your overall dental health. Please see us today, and we can discuss your options and help you get your oral health back on track. Call AZ Max at (480) 830-5866 to schedule an appointment.