Getting a Dental Bone Graft? What You Should Know About the Procedure

Posted on: 25 June 2015

If you've talked to your dentist about dental implants, he or she may have mentioned getting bone grafts first. This procedure adds bones to your gums when they have atrophied in the absence of teeth. If that sounds scary, don't worry. If you educate yourself on the procedure and costs, you'll be prepared for the risks and know what to expect.

The Procedure

The bone graft procedure is an out-patient surgery that should take no more than a few hours. Before it starts, an anesthesiologist will put you to sleep. Then a dental surgeon will make an incision where the graft will be installed. Once your skin is open, they will carefully insert the new bone into place. Then the cut will be sealed and bandaged with casts or splints supporting the tooth during recovery..

Bone Graft Risks

No type of surgical procedure is risk free. Bone grafts are no different. While they are relatively safe, they do have some risks. Chief among these include:

  • Allergic reactions to medications
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Excessive bleeding
  • Infections

You may also feel generalized pain and experience minor to severe swelling. Your doctor will prescribe anti-inflammatory medicine to treat these problems.

Types of Bone Grafts

There are three major types of procedures used to replace and reshape bones in your body: autografts, allografts, and alloplasts. These procedures have their advantages and disadvantages:

  • Autografts are made of bones from your body, such as your jaw, mouth, ribs, hips, leg bones, and even the skull. Unfortunately, this procedure has a long recovery time.
  • Allografts use bone from another person, such as a non-related donor or a cadaver. This type of procedure has a quicker recovery rate, but has a higher risk of disease infection.
  • Alloplast procedures utilize man-made bones, such as resins, hydroxyaptite, or calcium phosphate, instead of real bones. These implants are very strong, but run the risk of rejection by your body.


Bone graft cost varies wildly depending on the materials and procedure used. For example, allografts and alloplasts can cost between $200-$1,200 while autografts can cost between $2,000-$3,000. Unfortunately, dental insurance can be flaky on bone grafts.

While some dental insurance will cover a portion of medically-necessary bone graft costs, they won't cover cosmetic surgeries. Typically, if your loss of bone makes it difficult or impossible for you to eat, and other dental procedures cannot help, insurance will cover bone grafts. Likewise, general health insurance may cover it if it is necessary to replace bone lost by an accident, personal injury, or a non-dental medical condition.