Types of Bone Grafts, Complications & Risks

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When is Bone Grafting Necessary?

A common side effect of untreated periodontal disease (advanced gum disease) is bone loss. If this is the case, your dentist may suggest a bone graft.

Bone grafting is a minor surgical procedure that helps grow new bone. The graft may be taken from another area of your body, a donor, an animal, or made of synthetic materials. The bone graft material typically consists of processed bone minerals that help your body create new bone cells over time.

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You are not a candidate for a bone grafting procedure if you:

  • Have any active infections
  • Are immunocompromised or have immune deficiencies
  • Are undergoing radiation and chemotherapy
  • Are pregnant and/or nursing

Gum Disease and Bone Loss

Periodontal disease, or periodontitis, is an advanced form of gum disease that permanently damages the gums, bones, and surrounding tissues.

The long-term buildup of plaque and tartar (hardened plaque) initiates periodontitis.

teeth with plaque and red gums from gingivitis

The gums become irritated and begin to separate from your teeth, forming deep “periodontal pockets” below the gum line. Over time, plaque and tartar collect in these pockets.

If you do not get your teeth cleaned professionally, the disease will eventually result in soft tissue and bone loss. Your body does not naturally grow new bone cells. A bone graft is the only effective treatment option at this stage.

Bone Grafts and Dental Implants

Bone grafts repair damaged bone and also boost the chances of saving your teeth.

If tooth loss occurs due to periodontitis, you’ll need a dental implant placed after the bone graft heals.

jaw with teeth and dental molar implant

Implants are artificial teeth that mirror the shape of a screw and bond with your natural bone. To successfully support implant placement, you need enough strong and healthy natural bone remaining.

Types of Bone Grafts

There are four types of periodontal bone grafts available:

Autograft

An autograft is when a surgeon uses your own bone for the graft. It is usually taken from the back of your jawbone or hip bone. This type of graft may not be the best option for some patients.

Pain at the donor site can be severe and may cause primary challenges for certain people. Typically, periodontists use cadaver, animal, or synthetic grafting material. A surgeon only uses a graft from the patient's jawbone or hip in severe cases.

An autograft costs between $700 and $1000 for a single area.

Allograft

If you are not a candidate for an autograft, your oral surgeon may recommend an allograft. An allograft is when a surgeon sources a piece of human bone from a cadaver.

This procedure is a safe and more affordable alternative to an autograft. There is also a low risk of infection with cadaver donor bones.

An allograft costs between $700 and $1000 for a single area.

Xenograft

A xenograft uses a piece of bone from an animal, typically a cow. This procedure is relatively successful. However, it has a lower success rate than an autograft or allograft since the bone comes from a different species.

A xenograft does not stimulate the body’s cells to form bone. It acts as a scaffolding into which your bone naturally grows. In many cases, though, parts of the graft turn into your own bone.

A xenograft costs between $700 and $1000 for a single area.

Alloplast

An alloplast uses a synthetic bone substitute consisting of phosphorous, hydroxylapatite, and calcium. This procedure poses no risk for disease transmission and is capable of healing small defects by itself. Similar to a xenograft, an alloplast does not stimulate your body’s cells to form new bone.

An alloplast costs between $700 and $1000 for a single area.

Sinus Lift

If you've lost some back teeth, part of your sinus may begin to fall and fill in the missing teeth gaps. If this occurs, a sinus lift might be the best option for you. A sinus lift restores your sinus to normal and repairs the gap with a bone graft.

A sinus lift and a dental implant costs between $3,000 and $6,000.

Bone Graft Aftercare & Healing Process

You will be given general anesthesia before a bone graft procedure, which puts you into a deep sleep. This ensures you do not feel anything during the surgery.

However, after a few hours, the medication will wear off. Post-operative pain is normal but should diminish after a few days. You will most likely feel discomfort for a few weeks, though.

It is also essential to only eat soft foods while your mouth heals, such as mashed potatoes, oatmeal, smoothies, cooked vegetables, and scrambled eggs.

The bone graft should heal properly within four to six weeks.

Normal side effects of a bone graft procedure include:

  • Gum swelling
  • Skin swelling or bruising
  • Minor bleeding
  • Difficulty eating, speaking, and chewing

Possible Complications of Bone Grafts

In some cases, bone grafts can also result in health complications, such as:

  • A negative reaction to anesthesia during the procedure
  • Pain, swelling, and/or inflammation around the donor and grafting site
  • Bleeding or infection
  • Injuries affecting your nerves
  • Your body may reject the bone graft
  • Your body may reabsorb the graft

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Resources

Hollins, Carole. Basic Guide to Dental Procedures. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2015.

National Institutes of Health (NIH). Periodontal (Gum) Disease: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments. NIH Publication, 2013. https://www.nidcr.nih.gov/sites/default/files/2017-09/periodontal-disease_0.pdf

Shin, Seung Yun, et al. “Periodontal Regeneration.” Stem Cell Biology and Tissue Engineering in Dental Sciences, 2015, pp. 459–469., doi:10.1016/b978-0-12-397157-9.00040-0. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/autograft

“What to Expect During Bone Grafting.” Https://Www.deltadental.com, https://www.deltadental.com/us/en/protect-my-smile/procedure/all-about-dental-procedures/what-to-expect-during-bone-grafting.html.

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Updated on: December 1, 2020
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Alyssa Hill
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