Bone grafting for dental implants
Dental implants are man-made (artificial) replacements for your tooth roots. We put them into the bone of your jaw. They help to support:
- dentures (false teeth)
- crowns (caps on top of damaged teeth)
- bridges (structures to bridge or fill the gap where 1 or more teeth are missing)
We use dental implants if it would be difficult for you to have dentures or bridges. You might not have any suitable teeth or gums to support them.
Some people do not have enough bone in their jaw for us to put in dental implants. If this happens, you need a bone graft to increase the amount of bone available.
A bone graft is a type of surgery. It can cause swelling, bruising and pain. In most cases, we leave the bone graft to heal for 3 to 6 months before you can have your dental implant treatment. Your dentist tells you if you need a bone graft.
Read our information on having dental implants.
Types of bone grafting
There are 2 types of bone grafting:
- Minor bone grafting uses bone from another part of your jaw. You have a local anaesthetic. This medicine makes your mouth numb and you do not feel any pain, but you stay awake for the procedure. You can go home when the treatment is finished.
- Major bone grafting is used if you need a larger amount of bone. It takes bone from somewhere else in your body (usually the hip). You have a general anaesthetic. This medicines makes you sleep during the procedure, so that you do not feel any pain. You need to stay in hospital for a short time after your surgery.
Preparing for a bone graft
Make sure that you tell us about any problems with your health and any medicines that you take. Some medical conditions change the advice and information that we need to give you.
If you smoke, we strongly recommend that you try to stop and remain a non-smoker in the long term. This reduces the risks of having dental implants. Smoking can also delay wound healing because it reduces the amount of oxygen that reaches the tissues in your body.
For help to give up smoking, please speak to your nurse. You can also call the hospital stop smoking service on 020 7188 0995 or the free National Smokefree Helpline on 0300 123 1044 (England only, Monday to Friday: 9am to 8pm, Saturday and Sunday: 11am to 4pm).
Risks of having a bone graft
As with any medical procedure, there are some risks to having a bone graft.
- You might have pain, swelling and bruising in the area where we take the bone graft.
- If bone is taken from your hip (major bone grafting), you might find it uncomfortable to walk for 2 to 4 weeks.
- You might have swelling of your jaw for 1 to 2 weeks.
- A bone graft can get infected. Your dental team works carefully and gives you antibiotics after treatment to avoid this.
Sometimes, there is not enough successful bone to do dental implant surgery after a bone graft. If this happens, you might need more bone graft surgery.
The risk of failure is higher for some people, particularly those who smoke. Your dental team explains the risks and tells you if you have a higher chance of the bone graft failing.
There is also a higher risk of failure if we put the dental implants into grafted bone rather than natural bone.
Other treatment options
It is possible to use bone from other people or animals for a bone graft. This is called a synthetic (man-made) bone substitute, but it does not work as well as your own bone. Your body is less likely to reject your own bone.
Sometimes, your bone graft might be mixed with a synthetic material or bone from another source (such as products from animals). We might also use a synthetic layer (membrane) to cover and protect the graft.
Before your treatment, we tell you about any synthetic graft or membrane, where it comes from and what it is made from. You can talk to us about the choice of material.
Giving your permission (consent)
We want to involve you in decisions about your care and treatment. If you decide to have a bone graft, we ask you to sign a consent form. This says that you agree to have the treatment and understand what it involves.
If you would like more information about our consent process, please speak to a member of staff caring for you.