When a person ages or has certain habits, like smoking, his or her jaw bone can become weak and brittle. Before someone can receive dental implants, his or her jawbone has to be strong enough to support them.

Thankfully, if you don't have strong bones, you can develop them with bone grafting.

What does a bone graft procedure entail?

Unlike other surgeries which require general anesthesia, many bone grafts in the mouth can be placed by your dentist while you're under local anesthesia. The graft itself doesn't act as bone, but rather, it stands as a framework for a nearby bone to latch on to. Your dentist may also place biologic molecules and collagen membranes to encourage new bone tissue to flourish and mesh with the graft.

What kinds of bone grafts are there?

There are different kinds of bone grafts which can help your jaw bone. These grafts can come from your own body, a donor's, an animal, or a synthetic source.


Your dentist will most likely try to use an autograft, or tissue from your own body. Autografts have high success rates for encouraging new bone formation. The major downside is that you may be sore from having tissue removed from another area of your body. However, if you don't need a large graft, this can be a great choice. For instance, if you only have one weak area of the jaw bone, your dentist can actually graft bone from stronger areas of your jaw and chin.


Allografts come from a donor, usually a cadaver. These grafts also have good success rates since the bone comes from a donor of the same species. While it may be unappealing to think of cadaver bone, keep in mind that these grafts go through many treatments to pretty much eliminate any cross-infection issues.


Xenografts come from animal sources, mainly bovine tissue. The good news is that these grafts are in great supply, so you may not have to wait long to schedule a grafting appointment. Plus, you don't have to undergo extra surgery time since no tissue will be taken from your body. The major disadvantage of xenografts is that they don't always integrate as well as autografts and allografts. If you have an autoimmune disease or other condition, it's better to try an autograft or an allograft.


Alloplasts are synthetic grafts that do not come from animal sources. The main benefit of alloplasts is that these grafts can be customized to address any healing issues you may have. And again, you'll avoid a secondary surgery that would be required for an autograft.

Each grafting method has its pros and cons, so it's best to talk to your dentist to see which one would be best suited for your dental implants