A dental bone graft is a surgical procedure that repairs and restores bone mass to jawbones that have thinned and weakened to the point that they cannot support a dental implant. A dental implant must be placed into healthy, solid bone that will provide a strong foundation for the powerful forces generated during chewing.

Bone Grafts for Dental Implants

What is Dental Implant Surgery?

Dental implant surgery is a method of replacing missing or damaged teeth by placing an artificial tooth root into the solid bone tissue of the jawbone. During dental implant surgery, a doctor opens your gum tissues, then drills small holes into the jawbone. Tiny titanium posts are then placed into the holes, where after they heal and fuse with your bones, they will act just like tooth roots. Once the jawbone is healed, your oral surgeon will place an implant crown (one fake tooth) or bridge (a row of multiple fake teeth) on top of the dental implant(s).

Dental implants are made of titanium and work just like natural tooth roots. They provide a solid platform for the implant crown and bridge, which is the only part of dental implants that can be seen. In contrast to other dental solutions such as dentures, dental implants also prevent bone loss, as they stimulate nerves and blood vessels that nourish bone tissue in the jaws. Dental implants also allow people to eat a wider range of food than dentures.

Why You May Need a Bone Graft Before Dental Implants

Several conditions may cause a loss of bone in the jawbones. Some disorders like periodontitis (gum disease) can erode and diminish bone mass in the jaws. Injuries may also result in a loss of sufficient bone mass for a dental implant procedure. Even something as simple as losing a tooth or teeth to decay may also cause you to have thin jawbones. Additionally, osteoporosis can weaken the jawbones.

That’s because natural tooth roots stimulate the nerves and blood vessels of the jawbone, preventing bone loss. When a tooth and its roots are damaged, bone tissue around the tooth socket is dissolved by the body in a process called resorption. Resorption leaves the bone around the missing tooth or teeth thin and often brittle. Sometimes the loss of bone mass causes the jawbone to become too thin or weak to give a dental implant the solid foundation it needs.

Does Everyone Need Bone Grafting?

No. Bone grafting is not needed for everyone seeking dental implants. In fact, most candidates for dental implant surgery will not need a dental bone graft. When investigating whether or not a dental implant procedure is right for you, you will have to consult your oral surgeon. During your consultation, your oral surgeon will determine if you have sufficient bone mass to support dental implants by taking X-rays and 3D CT scans of your jaw.

Note that some dental offices may try to upsell dental bone grafting when it is not needed. Sometimes inexperienced doctors may also recommend bone grafting even in cases when it’s not essential for a successful dental implant.

In the hands of experienced oral surgeons, most candidates for dental implants will not need bone grafting. At America’s First Dental Implant Centers, we will only recommend the dental bone graft procedure when it’s necessary.

What is the Cost of Dental Bone Grafting?

Dental bone graft costs depend on the complexity of the procedure needed in each individual’s case. The exact type of bone graft material also affects the expense of the procedure. Typically, bone graft expenses range from $400 to $5,000.

Does Insurance Cover Bone Grafts?

Insurance does not cover dental implant grafting, neither does Medicare nor Medicaid.

The Bone Grafting Process

How Are Bone Grafts Done for Dental Implants?

In the dental implant bone grafting procedure, your oral surgeon will take bone material and graft it into your jawbone.  The steps are as follows:

  1. In the first step of bone grafting, your oral surgeon will place you under IV sedation. You’ll be comfortably sedated and asleep during the entire procedure.
  • Next, after the surgical site is cleaned and disinfected, the oral surgeon will make a small incision into the gum tissue where the new bone material is to be placed.
  • The bone material is placed into the area that needs to be built up and the incision is covered with a membrane that holds the bone material in place. The incision is then closed.

A bone graft encourages new bone to grow at the site of the graft. Over three to six months, enough bone will grow to provide a steady and stable foundation for dental implants to be placed.

How Painful Is a Bone Graft for Dental Implant?

When performed by an oral surgeon with IV sedation, the bone graft procedure for a dental implant is painless as the patient will be asleep for the entire procedure.

After a bone graft, it’s typical to experience some minor bruising and swelling. Most people have mild pain at most, which can be managed with over-the-counter analgesics.

How Long Does a Bone Graft Take?

Dental bone grafting is a minor surgical procedure. The time it takes your oral surgeon to perform a bone graft depends on how much grafting is required, whether existing teeth need to be removed, and if any other procedures need to be performed first. The grafting process takes from 30 to 60 minutes.

In all cases, an oral bone graft is a minor surgical procedure performed on an outpatient basis.

What to Expect After a Bone Graft for Dental Implants

How Long Does It Take for A Dental Bone Graft to Heal?

Initial recovery after a dental bone graft is fast, taking one to two weeks. However, building up new bone tissue in preparation for the dental implant procedure itself takes significantly longer.

Although the time needed for a bone graft to mature to a sufficient density and hardness to be able to support a dental implant varies, the typical healing time is around 3 – 4 months.

Some factors that influence the time needed for healing a bone graft include the recipient’s age and overall health conditions. Other conditions and habits, like smoking, may increase the time needed for a dental bone graft to heal. people who smoke have a higher risk of a bone graft failure. Overall, these are relatively minor risk factors.

How Long the Pain Lasts

Some soreness, swelling, tenderness and bruising after the bone graft procedure is to be expected, with mild pain starting to decrease two to three days after the procedure. Over-the-counter pain medications like acetaminophen are typically effective for controlling post-graft discomfort.

What to Eat and What Not to Eat

After a dental bone graft, it’s important to allow the healing process to start immediately. This means consuming soft foods for the first 48 hours post-surgery. Soft foods like yogurt and pudding, soft, cooked fish, broth, meal replacement drinks, smoothies, and protein shakes are all safe and nutritious.

Avoid foods that are:

  • Acidic, including citrus fruit and drinks
  • Hard, crunchy or chewy, including chips and crisp vegetables
  • Spicy

Avoid hot or very cold beverages. Also, avoid using straws or smoking for at least 48 hours after surgery. The goal is to allow blood clots to stay in place. Blood clots are vital to the initial healing process, to stay in place.

What Is More Painful—Bone Graft or Implant?

When performed by oral surgeons under IV sedation while you are asleep, both bone graft and dental implants are painless. However, when the procedures are performed by general dentists or periodontists who are not licensed to offer IV sedation, both procedures can be accompanied by discomfort. Whether you receive your bone graft and implants with us or another provider, we highly encourage you to seek out oral surgeons who provide IV sedation for these procedures to minimize pain.

During recovery, minor soreness, bruising, and tenderness at the surgical site is typical. Most people find that over-the-counter analgesics coupled with warm facial compresses work well for controlling discomfort.


  • Dr. Ryan Grider, DDS

    Dr. Grider is an Oral and Maxillofacial surgeon who specializes in full mouth (full arch, teeth in a day, All-on-X) dental implant procedures. Dr. Grider earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from DePauw University, majoring in Biology and Pre-medical studies. Subsequently, he went to Indiana University School of Dentistry and earned a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) degree. Post dental school, Dr. Grider completed an additional 4 years of residency at the University of Miami School of Medicine at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery.

    View all posts