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A bone graft for dental implants is the process of transferring natural or synthetic tissue—or both—to your jawbone to restore areas of low bone volume or density. Tooth roots stimulate and preserve the jawbone; thus, the bone shrinks in spaces where teeth are missing. Therefore, bone grafting is a common procedure if you want dental implants but do not have enough healthy bone.  According to the American Academy of Implant Dentistry, bone levels decrease 25 percent in the first three months after tooth loss and up to 50 percent in the first six months.

What Are the Types of Bone Grafts Used for Dental Implant Placement?

The four main types of dental implant bone grafts are:

  • Socket preservation
  • Ridge augmentation
  • Sinus lift
  • Nerve repositioning


The American Academy of Osseointegration confirms that circumstances related to dental implants may require additional procedures before, during, or after implant placement. These procedures, including bone grafts, ensure the long-term success of your implants.

Oral surgeons are skilled in performing jawbone grafting procedures. And before recommending bone grafting, your surgeon will take a 3-D cone beam CT scan to assess your bone quality and volume. Knowing the types of grafting procedures and how they work can help you feel more comfortable about your treatment.

1. Socket Preservation

Socket preservation is a bone grafting procedure to preserve and rebuild the socket—the bone that supports a tooth. A missing or removed tooth leaves an empty socket. Without a tooth stimulating the bone, the socket walls can shrink or collapse. A healthy socket is vital for long-lasting dental implants.

Socket Preservation Procedure

Oral surgeons often complete socket preservation after tooth removal using these steps:

  • Insert a thin sheet of material between your gum and bone to prevent gum cells from interfering with slow-growing bone cells
  • Fill the socket with natural or synthetic bone
  • Cover the area with tissue or artificial membrane to support your body’s ability to grow bone and repair the socket

Bone cells will grow and fill out the socket walls’ height and width. Socket preservation at the time of tooth removal prevents future bone loss and helps you avoid more invasive and costly surgery later.

Healing Time

Plan for three to six months of healing time after socket preservation.

2. Ridge Augmentation

Ridge augmentation is a bone grafting procedure to increase the width and volume of the alveolar bone that surrounds your teeth and forms their sockets. Missing teeth, jaw deformities, disease, or trauma can cause bone ridge loss. Unlike socket preservation immediately after tooth removal, an oral surgeon performs bone augmentation if bone loss has already occurred. Augmentation restores the jaw’s form and prepares a stable foundation for dental implants.

Ridge Augmentation Procedure

The steps in a ridge augmentation procedure include:

  • Lift gum tissue to expose areas of missing bone
  • Fill the bone with bone or bone substitute, which serves as a scaffold for new bone growth
  • Suture gum tissue over the area and give your body time to regrow lost bone and tissue

Your oral surgeon will explain which graft materials will help your body build enough quality bone for dental implants.

Healing Time

It takes about six months for ridge augmentation to heal.

3. Sinus Lift

A sinus lift, or a sinus augmentation, is a bone graft procedure that raises the sinus floor in your upper rear jaw and grafts bone. If upper back teeth are missing, the sinuses may drop into the space that tooth roots occupied. In this case, dental implants that replace your missing teeth would pierce the sinus membrane without a sinus lift.

Sinus Lift Procedure

A technique for raising the sinus and encouraging bone growth can include these steps:

  • Make an incision in the gum to expose the bone
  • Cut a small amount of bone and lift it into the sinus cavity
  • Fill the space with bone graft material
  • Close the incision and allow time for bone growth

A sinus lift can be the prelude to a better outcome with individual implants or an implant denture.

Healing Time

After a sinus lift procedure, you will typically wait four to six months before getting a dental implant.

4. Nerve Repositioning

Although your oral surgeon will consider less aggressive options first, repositioning the nerve that runs through the lower jaw may be the only way to place your dental implants correctly. Nerve repositioning moves the nerve to make room for dental implants and bone grafting material.

Still, nerve repositioning requires advanced skill and experience for precise treatment that minimizes the risk of nerve damage. Procedure risks include postoperative numbness in your lower lip or jaw, which can be short- or long-term, or sometimes permanent.

Nerve Repositioning Procedure

Usually, a nerve repositioning procedure includes these steps:

  • Remove a portion of the outer lower jawbone to expose the nerve and vessel canal
  • Isolate and gently reposition the nerve and vessel bundle
  • Place the dental implant
  • Release the nerve and vessel bundle
  • Place bone graft material
  • Close the surgical site

If you have experienced lower tooth and jawbone loss, nerve repositioning may be the solution to help you get dental implants.

Healing time

The healing time is about six months for nerve repositioning and implant placement.

Bone Grafting Benefits

In addition to anchoring your dental implants, the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons lists other bone grafting benefits:

  • Effective chewing
  • More esthetic treatment outcome
  • Improved function and speech

Consult with Leading Dental Implant Surgeons

The Maryland Center for Oral Surgery and Dental Implants welcomes you to our comfortable, friendly practice in the Baltimore area. Schedule a consultation to meet with one of our highly experienced surgeons to evaluate your medical and dental histories and your bone health for dental implants.