The phrase “dental bone graft surgery” might sound pretty terrifying, but it is actually a fairly common procedure that is minimally invasive and doesn’t take that long to recover from.

What is Dental Bone Graft Surgery?

If you lose a tooth either through an accident or because of decay but are otherwise healthy, your dentist will probably suggest replacing it with an implant, a false tooth inserted into your jaw rather than attached to the adjacent tooth as in a bridge. If the bone of the jaw has also been damaged, it will first need to be replaced in order to properly hold the implant in place. This is where the bone graft comes in.

In bone graft surgery, the damaged bone is removed and replaced by a piece of healthy bone. Traditionally, this bone was taken from a donor site on the patient’s body. Nowadays, animal or cadaver bone or an artificial bone substitute is often used as a replacement. These options work just as well and have the advantage of not requiring a second operation site on the patient’s body. The graft will be conducted under local anesthetic and takes between 45 to 90 minutes.

What to Expect After a Dental Bone Graft?

Dental bone graft recovery is not that different from that of any dental surgery. Here’s what to expect.

  • Pain. There will be some discomfort after the procedure, but that is almost inevitable with any form of oral surgery. The pain should not be greater than that of a simple tooth extraction and can be managed with over-the-counter pain medication.
  • Swelling. There will be swelling after the procedure. Your dentist will prescribe an anti-inflammatory drug to help control this, but you should also take other steps as well.

The most effective method to combat swelling is to ice the affected area. Place an ice-pack over the swelling at regular intervals in the two days following surgery. Do not leave it in place for more than 10 minutes as this might freeze and damage the graft. The cold will relieve the discomfort, and reduce the amount of blood flowing into the wound, thereby reducing the swelling.


  • Diet. You will have to put up with some severe dietary restrictions in the first few days after the procedure. Each surgery is different, so the restrictions are not the same for everybody. Some patients might only be able to consume cold liquids, such as smoothies, cold soups, and juices for several days, others restricted to a diet of room-temperature soft foods, such as mashed potatoes or oatmeal.

However, anyone who has had this procedure will have to avoid any hard, crunchy or sharp foods for several weeks after the procedure, until the graft has properly bonded with the host bone. This is to avoid dislodging it before it has become strong enough.

  • Sleep. You should sleep on your back, with your head in an elevated position. This is to prevent blood from building up in the graft site. If you can’t sleep on your back, make sure not to sleep on the side of the graft site.
  • Activity. In the days immediately following the surgery, strenuous activity must be avoided, and you probably won’t be up to it anyway. As your body heals you will feel it and can slowly resume your regular routine.

The graft bone will take several months to fully bond with the host, and become strong enough to support an implant. Once it is, the implant procedure can progress.

While a bone graft is not as painful as it sounds, it is, of course, better if it can be avoided, so if you think you’re developing any issues with your teeth, book an appointment at Doral Sedation Dentistry, today!