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What to expect when you need a bone graft

Patients who have been wearing dentures or missing teeth for a long period of time may experience jaw bone deterioration or bone loss.

With no roots to transfer pressure to the jaw through the teeth while chewing, the bone is not stimulated to maintain its volume. This can lead to a patient’s jaw bone being too thin, too weak or lacking in sufficient ridge for dental implants.

Fortunately, a procedure called bone grafting can restore the height and width of your jaw bone. Here’s what to expect should you require a bone graft prior to being fitted with implants.

Mapping jaw structure and stability

The first step in the bone grafting process is to look at three-dimensional images of your jaw bone to determine which sockets require bone grafting to be able to accept a dental implant.

Some bone grafts will be performed in conjunction with the extraction of one or more teeth and at other times grafts are carried out as a standalone procedure.

The day of your surgery

While a bone graft may sound like a serious or painful operation, it’s minimally invasive and generally done under local anesthetic. Bone grafting procedures don’t tend to create any more postop discomfort than an ordinary tooth extraction.

  • Socket grafting after extraction: In cases where the socket to be grafted is currently occupied by a heavily decayed or damaged tooth, your oral surgeon will simply fill the vacated cavity with bone graft material once your tooth has been extracted.
  • Ridge augmentation: When tooth loss occurred long ago, your oral surgeon will graft bone to the residual ridge to make it taller and wider.

In both cases, gum tissue is pulled over the bone graft and sutured to allow the graft to heal and bond to your natural bone.

What to expect after surgery

You may have some discomfort for several days as well as bleeding, swelling and bruising. The numbness will subside a few hours following the procedure. It is normal to feel some facial and sinus pressure.

Postop pain can usually be managed with pain relievers such as ibuprofen or Tylenol. If stronger medication is required, your oral surgeon may prescribe Percocet or Vicadin. If your surgeon prescribes an antibiotic, be sure to take the full course as directed.

Other postop procedures to follow may include:

  • Biting down on gauze until the bleeding has stopped
  • Drinking plenty of liquids and avoiding strenuous activity for a few days
  • Icing your jaw for the first 24 hours
  • Avoiding hard foods

 How long until I can have dental implants?

In some cases, a bone graft is ready for implants in just a few months, in others, it can take longer. You’ll need to return to the office for checkups to monitor how well your graft is being absorbed into your natural bone tissue.