3D medical illustration of a bone graft for a dental implantDental implants offer many benefits in part because they are the only tooth replacement that integrates directly with your jaw bone. Implants depend on your bone for support. So what can you do if you don’t have enough bone to support dental implants? If you’re facing that situation, you may need a bone graft. But what is a bone graft, how does it work, and who needs one?

Butler implant dentist Dr. Bob Fornalczyk is great at explaining complex dental concepts in simple terms so people can understand them. This can help you make important decisions about your dental care, such as whether to get a bone graft. If you still have questions after reading our guide, we invite you to schedule a consultation today with Dr. Fornalczyk at Advanced Dentistry of Butler.

What is a bone graft?

A bone graft is a procedure to help your body rebuild bone in areas where you’ve lost bone or simply don’t have as much as you currently need. 

There are several types of dental grafts. Butler implant dentist Dr. Fornalczyk will evaluate your bone and decide what type you need. The most common types of bone graft include:

  • Socket preservation
  • Ridge augmentation
  • Sinus lift
  • Periodontal bone graft

Socket preservation fills in the hole left behind when your dentist extracts a tooth. It’s also known as ridge preservation, referring to the alveolar ridge, the bone structure that supports your teeth. An implant dentist often uses a socket preservation graft to fill in around a dental implant, which is narrower than a natural tooth. 

Ridge augmentation builds up your alveolar ridge. After tooth extraction, your body removes what it sees as unneeded bone, causing your jawbone to shrink. You might then need this type of graft to support your dental implant. 

Sometimes, after you lose the upper back teeth (molars), your sinuses will grow into the space left by the removed tooth roots. A sinus lift fills the space back in with bone. 

Gum disease is the most common cause of lost teeth among adults in America. It usually causes tooth loss by destroying the bone around the teeth. This means there might not be enough bone to support your dental implants. Restoring your bone will help secure your dental implant. 

A bone graft can be a large block, but most of the time, it comprises numerous small particles that your body will integrate into a solid mass of bone. 

Depending on the type of bone graft you need, Dr. Fornalczyk may refer you to a specialist. 

Who needs a bone graft for dental implants?

You will need a bone graft when your body doesn’t have enough bone to support dental implants. We discussed above the different situations where you might lose bone, leading to a deficiency in the bone to support implants. However, you might also lose bone to injury or disease. The best way to know if you need a bone graft is to let Butler implant dentist Dr. Fornalczyk evaluate your bone.

If you want to reduce the risk that you will need a bone graft, you should:

  • Get dental implants at the time of extraction
  • Do not wait too long after extraction to get implants
  • Get gum disease treated quickly
  • Choose dental implant options that do not require grafts

Placing dental implants at the same time as tooth extraction makes it most likely that you will have enough bone to support your dental implants. 

If you have already lost teeth, don’t wait to get dental implants. Without teeth to stimulate the bone, your body begins to remove it right away. Wearing traditional dentures can speed up bone loss if they fit poorly. 

Gum disease destroys your bone. The sooner you get gum disease treated, the less bone you lose, and the more likely you can get replacement teeth. 

Finally, there are multiple approaches to dental implants. Some of these approaches can avoid the need for a bone graft. Ask Butler implant dentist Dr. Fornalczyk if these implants are right for you.

Where does bone graft material come from?

There are several options for bone graft sources. You can choose to have bone graft material taken from your own body (called an autograft). You can also get an allograft, which takes bone from another person, usually a cadaver. Xenograft material comes from an animal donor, such as a pig, cow, or coral. In both these cases, the material is processed so that it contains no cellular material from the donor–it’s all sterile bone material. 

However, these days the most common bone graft materials are alloplasts, synthetic materials that your body can incorporate into your bones. 

What happens during a dental bone graft?

Typically, a bone graft is not a complicated procedure. For a socket graft, your dentist will simply add the graft material to the socket after tooth extraction, whether the socket is empty or has a dental implant in it. 

If you choose an autograft, your dentist will first perform surgery to remove the graft material from the donor site, often another part of the jaw, but possibly other areas in the body. Sometimes the graft will be processed to sterilize it and/or mix it with additional ingredients to help the bone heal. 

When a bone graft is a separate surgery, your dentist will cut open your gums to expose the bone. Then he will place the grafting material. After adding growth factors or other ingredients to help the graft integrate, your dentist will sew the gums closed, possibly using gum graft material to cover the expanded bone volume. 

Is a dental bone graft painful?

Typically not. 

If you get a socket graft, the extraction and/or implant placement are painful, but the graft will not cause additional pain. 

Bones have few nerves and typically don’t register much pain, but your gums are sensitive, so they will likely be sore after your procedure, especially if your dentist needs additional gum material to cover the augmented bone. 

For an autograft, you might notice more pain at the donor site than at the graft site. 

How long does a bone graft take to heal?

Butler implant dentist Dr. Fornalczyk will talk to you about your situation, which might impact healing times. However, a bone graft typically takes four to six months to heal. Except for the case of socket grafts, we will likely have to wait to place dental implants until after your bone graft heals, so it makes the dental implant process longer

How much does a bone graft cost?

The cost of a bone graft can vary widely depending on the type of graft, the size of the graft, and the source of graft material. Autografts cost more because you need surgery at the donor site to remove the material. 

Before your bone graft, Butler implant dentist Dr. Fornalczyk will give you an estimate for your case, but you can expect that bone graft costs range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars.

Do You Need a Bone Graft in Butler?

If you are looking for a bone graft in Butler, PA, let implant dentist Dr. Bob Fornalczyk help. He can explain the procedure to you clearly, then help you decide if it’s right for you. 

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Fornalczyk, please call (724) 282-4436 or use our online form to request an appointment at Advanced Dentistry of Butler, located near Butler Community College and Oak Hills.