Bone grafting for dental implants

Dental implants are artificial replacements for your tooth roots. We put them into the bone of your jaw to help support dentures, crowns (caps) or bridges.

Dental implants are used if it would be difficult for you to have a denture or bridge. You might not have any suitable teeth or gums to support them.

Some people do not have enough bone in their jaw to allow 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, the bone graft is left 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. This is done using local anaesthetic to numb your mouth. You can go home when the treatment is finished.
  • Major bone grafting is used if a larger amount of bone is needed. It takes bone from elsewhere in your body (usually the hip). This is done under general anaesthetic. You need to stay in hospital for a short time after your surgery.

Preparing for a bone graft

Make sure you tell us about any problems with your health and any medicines you take. Some medical conditions change the advice and information 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 the bone graft has been taken.
  • If bone has been 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 use careful techniques and give 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 explain all the risks to you, and tell you if you are at more risk of the bone graft failing.

There is also a higher risk of failure if the dental implants are put 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 bone substitute, but it does not work as well as your own bone. This is because 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 discuss the choice of material with us.

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.

Resource number: 2844/VER5
Last reviewed: July 2021
Next review due: July 2024

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Contact us

If you have any questions or concerns please contact the dental implant department.

Phone 020 7188 1816 Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm

Email [email protected]

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Do you have any comments or concerns about your care?

Contact our Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS)

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