ProsthodontistsIf you’re missing one or more teeth, there’s no other dental restoration that beats an implant in terms of aesthetics and function. Dental implants not only look like real teeth, but they work like real teeth too. But in some cases, a patient’s jaw bone may not be strong enough to meld with and support the titanium screw used to anchor the dental implant in the mouth. In these cases, due to the natural aging process or other issues, jaw tissue may have deteriorated and a bone graft may be needed to create a strong foundation for the dental implants.

What is a bone graft?

A bone graft1 acts like a scaffold or a filler to support and encourage the growth of new bone. In cases where the jaw bone tissue is too soft or too weak to support an implant, bone graft surgery may be necessary. In this procedure, the surgeon takes a small section of bone tissue from another area of your body or they can use a special bone grafting material to graft onto your jaw bone. This tissue or material is used to spur the growth of new bone. After the surgery has been done, the patient goes home to heal and wait for several months while the graft takes hold. The bone graft then slowly creates new, stronger bone tissues in the jaw.

In some cases, it may be possible for the dentist to do a very minor bone grafting procedure during your dental implant surgery, but at Washington State Prosthodontics, we’ll make the decision about the timing and extent of bone grafting based on our assessment of your jaw tissue health. But either way, you can expect that following a bone graft, your jaw will be able to fully support the new dental implant.

The Procedure

Dental bone grafting is a routine procedure at Washington State Prosthodontics. It’s minimally invasive and requires very little downtime for recovery. After the procedure, your jaw bone will be strong enough to support the dental implants. Bone grafting is a simple process that only involves a few steps, but the results can have an important and lasting impact on the stability of your dental implants.

First, you’ll be given general anesthesia during the bone graft procedure. General anesthesia will put you into a deep, restful sleep. Then, the surgeon will begin the surgery by making an incision where the graft is to be placed. The donor bone tissues or special bone graft materials are shaped to fit the area and then, as soon as the graft has been secured, the surgeon closes the incision with stitches. After the Bone Grafting Procedure

Patients can expect to experience mild pain or discomfort following the bone grafting procedure. The level of discomfort is similar to what patients experience from other types of oral surgery or tooth extraction. Typically, the pain is minor and easy to control using an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drug or bags of ice.

You should expect to see some swelling in the face following bone graft surgery. To reduce swelling, take steps right after your procedure to try to keep swelling to a minimum. Putting ice on the affected areas of the face and jaw for the first two days after surgery can help keep the inflammatory process and bleeding to a minimum. Prop yourself up in bed to sleep. And take anti-inflammatory medications on schedule to keep swelling under control. What to Eat After Bone Graft Surgery

At Washington State Prosthodontics, we encourage patients to eat a diet of mostly cool or room temperature liquids for the first few days following the procedure. Juices, smoothies, milkshakes, and cold soups are perfect for calming inflamed tissues. Room temperature foods that many patients enjoy following a bone graft include: oatmeal, scrambled eggs, pudding, pureed fruit, or mashed potatoes. By avoiding foods that may require chewing, patients can speed up their healing process. No matter what, during the first two to three weeks following surgery, it’s important to avoid eating hard, crunchy, or sharp foods so that they don’t get stuck in the graft site.

Nutrition is an important part of the recovery process from a bone graft surgery. Though your diet may be somewhat limited in order to protect the graft, be sure to eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables (in juices or smoothies so that you won’t have to chew them), avoid alcoholic beverages, and drink plenty of water. By eating a healthy diet, you can give your body the necessary building blocks to heal quickly and properly.


Smoking cigarettes can slow the healing process and the growth of new bone tissues so, at Washington State Prosthodontics, we always recommend that patients avoid cigarettes for a month before surgery and throughout the healing process. Research has shown that smoking can seriously impede the healing process and the success of a bone graft.

How to Sleep Comfortably After a Bone Graft

We recommend that patients sleep propped up on their backs to keep the head elevated in order to prevent blood from pooling at the graft site. By sleeping propped up, patients will be able to keep swelling to a minimum. For patients who can’t sleep on their backs, we recommend that they sleep on the side of the body that wasn’t affected by surgery. Returning to Your Daily Routine After a Bone Graft Procedure

As a general rule, it’s best to avoid strenuous activities during the first two weeks following surgery. Strenuous physical activity can cause stress on the bone graft which can slow the healing process. Though moderate exercise such as walking can be beneficial to the healing process, it’s best to avoid heavy physical activity that might disturb the treated area. At Washington State Prosthodontics2, we monitor patients carefully during the recovery process to determine when they’re ready to return to their normal daily routine. Full Recovery from a Bone Graft

The length of time required for recovery from a bone graft varies from patient to patient depending on the size of the graft, your general health, and other variables. Some patients are back to the daily routine within two weeks while others require a year to recover and take that next step in the dental implant process.