You got a long, scary list of all the dental treatments you need: tooth extraction…dental implant…bone grafts…. Wait, bone grafts? People often aren’t prepared for this common accompanying procedure, and…

What to Know About Bone Grafts

What You Should Know About Bone Grafts

You got a long, scary list of all the dental treatments you need: tooth extraction…dental implant…bone grafts…. Wait, bone grafts?

People often aren’t prepared for this common accompanying procedure, and it can come as a surprise.

The word “bone graft” can sound intimidating, and it can cost hundreds of dollars, but a bone graft can be extremely helpful for restoring a healthy mouth or preparing for a procedure like a dental implant.

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What Is a Bone Graft?

A bone graft is a dental surgical procedure that transplants bone tissue in order to facilitate the healing and regeneration of the surrounding bones.

We often don’t think of our bones as “growing” anymore once we’re adults, but our tissues still have the ability to regenerate completely. They just need a little help!

That’s what a bone graft is for. The bone graft basically gives a blueprint for your other bones so they grow to replace the substitute.

Who Performs Bone Grafts?

General dentists may perform bone grafts in certain cases, but they usually refer patients to periodontists or oral surgeons for this kind of dental procedure.

Why Would My Dentist Recommend Bone Grafting?

Once a tooth is lost, 25% of bone width is reduced within the first year. If you choose to forego a bone graft when you need one,  you could be potentially endangering other healthy teeth and other bone in your mouthnot to mention your facial appearance (your jawbone may try to heal by collapsing in on itself).

If the dentist believes the bones in your mouth are compromised in their present condition (namely the alveolar bone and the jawbone), they will recommend a bone graft to strengthen them.

Are There Different Types of Bone Grafts?

There are two common types of bone grafts available:

  • Allograft – This bone graft is taken from a deceased donor. It is thoroughly cleaned by the tissue bank.
  • Autograft – This bone graft comes from bone inside your body. It is often taken from ribs, hips, pelvis or your wrist.

The type of bone graft you need depends on the kind of bone graft procedure you need and the reason for it.

Common reasons bone weaken and need bone grafts include:

Bone Grafts May Be First Step Toward Getting Dental Implants

Bone grafting is commonly recommended in preparation for a dental implant. Since dental implants are so expensive and time-consuming, those on your dental care team want to do everything they can to help your implant succeed.

If there is not enough bone for the implant to merge with, it is far more likely to fail. You don’t want to have to start the process all over again!

For an explanation and illustration of the process of bone grafting for dental implants, click here.

What Should I Expect During the Bone Grafting Process?

  1. The periodontist or oral surgeon may use either natural bone graft material (for example, by taking bone from another area of your body) or a synthetic substitute.
  2. Local anesthesia should usually be sufficient for numbing the area, but you can also request oral or IV sedatives.
  3. Although some small bone grafts can be performed at the same time as the implant surgery, in many cases you may need to wait a few months for the graft to fuse with your bone enough to provide a good foundation for the implant.
  4. While you’re waiting for the graft to fuse with the bone, you may experience some temporary discomfort (such as minor swelling or bruising), and you may only be able to eat soft foods for a time while it heals. The discomfort should only last for a few days. IF you experience major, prolonged discomfort, seek help from your dental care provider immediately. 

How Much Is a Bone Graft?

A full-priced bone graft costs around $250-$3,000 without dental insurance or another affordable dental plan option. 

Additional bone graft cost information can be found here.

Keep in mind that bone graft pricing is based on a few different factors:

  • Number of sites in your mouth that need bone grafts
  • How substantial the bone loss is
  • Material needed for the bone graft

In addition, you will probably have accompanying procedures. We’ve already mentioned dental implants, but you may need other procedures like surgical extractions or guided tissue regeneration.

For these reasons, even though the bone graft itself is in the hundreds, people who need this procedure may have dental bills totaling as much as $1,000 to $8,000 because of all the accompanying procedures.

If your goal is ultimately to get an implant, but you can’t afford the full dental bill right now, it’s a good idea to start with just the bone graft to prevent further bone collapse or loss. That way, it won’t be as difficult (or expensive) to get an implant down the line.

How Can I Save Money on My Bone Graft?

The Dental Access Plan powered by the Aetna Dental Access Network often gets excellent savings on specialty procedures like bone grafts, guided tissue regeneration, impacted wisdom tooth extractions, implants, abutments and crowns.

Plus, unlike many other kinds of dental plans, it has no waiting periods for major dental work. With a typical dental insurance policy, you would probably be looking at a waiting period of 12-24 months for the types of dental work we are talking about here.

Just want to pay cash and get out of there? Many providers will give somewhere between 10-15% off if you pay with cash instead of with a card.

Also, don’t be afraid to ask about an installment plan. Many dentists will break your bill up into payments for some of the more expensive procedures.

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