In a previous post on our blog, you learned that tooth loss can lead to bone loss over time if not addressed. To fix that, you need a dental bone graft. This is a procedure that adds volume and density to the jaw bone to support dental implants. If you suffer from gum disease, a bone graft may also be needed. Getting a bone graft is considered a surgical treatment and it has an extended recovery.
This post will delve into what to expect after bone grafting for dental implants. The procedure is quite common since losing a tooth triggers bone loss in the gap. To ensure that the dental implant is held in place so you can use it in the years to come, sometimes this is the best way to go. Read on to find out everything about the recovery period.
Key Takeaways on Bone Graft Recovery Following Surgery
- It takes about a week to recover from bone graft, whereas the incision will heal completely within a couple of weeks
- It’s normal to experience inflammation, swelling, and pain or discomfort after a bone graft; they should go away after a few days
- You should avoid hot drinks, alcohol, spicy foods, crunchy and sticky foods, as well as dairy products
- Stick with soft foods during the first days post-op
- Smoking is strongly discouraged regardless of the type of graft you're using
- In certain cases, bone grafts can fail, that’s why you need to follow the dentist’s instructions on aftercare religiously
What are the Dental Bone Graft Healing Stages?
The healing after a bone graft involves several steps: inflammation, revascularisation, osteogenesis, and remodelling. Your dental team will monitor the healing. The last stage is incorporation of the graft into the patient’s skeleton. These steps will happen at a different time in every person since healing is quite individual.
So, here is what to expect during your recovery. In the first few days, your swelling, pain, and discomfort will be at their highest. Feel free to take pain medication for as long as you need. As you move on to week 2, they will gradually begin to diminish, making you feel a lot better.
72 hours after surgery, it is not uncommon to see some redness and oozing in your saliva. This results from slight bleeding from the wound.
By week 3, you will be free of any symptoms being able to eat and drink what you want. But even though the initial healing will be over, your body still has work to do that is invisible to you.
Over the next few weeks what will happen is, the bone graft will stimulate enough bone growth around the treatment site. Graft particles may fall off in the process and feel like sand in your mouth. As new bone cells are formed, the graft will be gradually resorbed. In some people, the process is over at the fourth-month mark; for others, it takes 6 months to get there.
How to Speed up Bone Graft Healing Time for Dental Implant Surgery?
There are certain aftercare tips that can help you speed up the recovery process a little bit or, at the very least, ensure that you are healing well.
Once the graft is placed, you should keep the surgical site clean. It’s important to prevent an infection from happening. This means brushing your teeth regularly (do not apply pressure to the incision in your gums, though) and using mouthwash or a saline solution to disinfect the area of the bone graft. Poor oral hygiene is detrimental to any dental treatment you undertake.
The other thing you need to ensure is that your healing capacities are not inhibited by smoking or drinking alcohol. Do avoid these like the plague the first week or so.
What you eat also plays a role in your recovery. Choose healthy nutritious foods so that your body has enough fuel and nutrients to do its thing. Quality foods promote healing and cellular regeneration. They can also improve your oral health in the long term.
Further to this, be sure to take all medications as prescribed. And lastly, you should try to keep swelling down. When the surgical area is swollen, this can restrict blood flow. Without adequate blood flow, your wound will not heal as quickly as you wish.
For this reason, you want to apply ice packs to the treatment area in the first couple of days. Make sure to keep them on for short periods of time because prolonged exposure to cold can lead to poor circulation and damage to nearby nerves.
When Can I Eat After Tooth Extraction and Bone Graft?
What can I eat?
Until your body clears the local anaesthetic, general anaesthesia or oral sedation, you should go with liquid foods or not eat at all. Ice cream is a good option.
During your initial recovery, you should stick with soft foods like eggs and potatoes. Potatoes can be cooked in plenty of ways, giving you lots of variety so you can get through the rough stages of a bone graft healing time.
It is vital that you consume lots of protein after the surgery because it is essential for your healing. Not only does it help to keep infection at bay but it helps to repair damaged tissues. Plus, it keeps you full and satiated for longer.
The good news is that if you don’t feel like eating after your treatment, you can add protein powder to your meals, still maintaining your daily calorie and protein intake.
As you begin to feel better, you can reintroduce solid foods into your diet.
What not to eat?
- Crunchy foods like popcorn, crackers, and chips
- Sticky food such as toffee, marshmallows and caramel
- Hard, chewy foods like raw veggies, red meat, etc.
- Acidic foods like tomatoes, lemons, and vinegar
- Spicy foods like salsa, curry, and chilli peppers
- Hot soups, anything hot (it may dislodge the blood clot that typically forms at the site of the incision)
When Can I Drink Alcohol After Bone Graft?
It is strongly recommended that you stay away from alcohol for at least 48 hours after the procedure. It reduces the number of white blood cells that are responsible for eating away at debris and bacteria during wound healing. Not to mention, it decreases the number of proteins in charge of closing a wound.
What can I drink?
Cold tea and coffee are fine but don’t drink hot beverages after the treatment. You can drink water obviously. Fresh juices are also considered safe. Make sure to drink plenty of liquids.
What not to drink?
Avoid dairy products as they can produce an inflammatory response in the mouth post-surgery. What is more, milk can cause nausea and vomiting in some people and you should avoid vomiting at all costs. Alcohol should also be avoided.
Dental Bone Graft Surgery Recovery Time
The majority of patients are curious about how long for a dental bone graft to heal. Nobody wants to feel out of their element for a long time.
Although it’s impossible to predict how fast your body will recover after a bone graft, full recovery is expected to ensue between three and nine months post-op, and in some cases - longer.
There are various factors affecting the healing process such as the scope of the procedure, the type of bone graft (allograft, alloplast, xenograft, and autograft ), your body’s healing capacities, and more.
If you're wondering how long it takes before you start to feel normal again, the answer is about a week or two. Meaning, you will resume your daily activities pretty soon after the oral surgery was performed.
Dental Bone Graft Recovery Swelling and Bruising
Since this is a surgical procedure, it cannot go without some swelling. So, how long does dental bone graft swelling last? It varies from one patient to the next but it is generally at its highest 2-3 days after surgery. There may be some residual swelling for another 3 days before it starts to resolve.
Although you can’t avoid swelling, there is something you can do about it. Applying ice packs around the treatment area can help reduce the amount of swelling you experience. Just give it some time to heal.
Can Bone Grafts Fail?
Unfortunately, the bone graft procedure can be unsuccessful in some patients, especially those with certain medical conditions. Smokers also run a risk of not getting the most out of this treatment.
Here are some tell-tale signs your graft is not working:
- Lack of improvement in the volume of your jawbone (the bone that supports your teeth)
- Gum recession
- Pus from the surgical site
- Swelling and pain that get worse after week 1
When Should I Contact My Oral Surgeon?
If you notice any of the above symptoms, you should call your dental professional right away and provide all the details they need. They will decide whether this is an emergency and ask you to visit their office for an evaluation of the situation.
You should also contact your dentist if you develop a fever of 101° Fahrenheit (38° Celsius) or higher.
In addition to that, if there is anything that is bothering you during your recovery, feel free to get in touch with your team so they can intervene.
What are the Advantages of Dental Bone Grafts?
A bone graft is necessary for those patients with missing teeth, in areas where bone loss in their jaw has occurred.
The greatest advantage of bone grafts is that they stimulate bone growth, allowing your dental implants to bond with the jaw, a process called osseointegration. If you don’t have an adequate amount of bone in your jaw, i.e. enough to support the implant, the treatment may not be successful.
Additionally, bone grafts provide support for the surrounding teeth, preventing more bone deterioration and you from losing your pearly whites. As well as that, they give you a powerful bite function so that you can eat like you normally do.
The other benefit of a bone graft is that it can help restore your smile and thus enhance your self-confidence.