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How Much Bone Grafting Will I Need for Dental Implants?

I have a combination of old crowns, a partial denture, and decayed and missing teeth. I saw two dentists, and one of them recommends full-mouth reconstruction that will include six dental implants. The six missing teeth have been gone for almost 12 years. The dentist said I probably would need bone grafting, but he would refer me to a periodontist for the implants. I know I need bone grafting because I can see that the bone is low where the teeth are missing. I’m unsure which dentist I will choose to complete the work, but both visits left me with questions. How much bone grafting will I need? Will this process take more than a year? Thank you. Nathan from Rockville, MD


Thank you for your question.

How Much Bone Grafting Will You Need for Dental Implants?

Your jawbone loss will determine how much grafting you need for dental implants. An implant dentist, oral surgeon, or periodontist must take a 3-D CT scan to measure the bone volume throughout your jaw and identify where to place implants. An American Academy of Implant Dentistry published an article on missing teeth and bone loss. The article states that bone shrinks 25 percent in the first three months after tooth loss and up to 50 percent in the first six months. For denture wearers, dentures resting on the jawbone accelerate shrinkage.

After twelve years, your bone loss may be significant. The 3-D CT scan is a critical factor to successful implant placement that a doctor must not overlook. As you have consultations with different implant dentists, ask whether they use the scans to determine whether patients are eligible for dental implants and where to place them. Find another provider if an implant dentist you consult with does not use a 3-D CT scan for treatment planning.

How Long Does It Take to Get Dental Implants?

The time it takes to get dental implants varies because no two patients’ cases are identical. Depending on the treatment needed, you may expect the following:

  • If you need bone grafting before implant placement, expect four to six months of healing before implant surgery.
  • After implant surgery, your doctor will allow three to four months of healing. You can wear temporary replacement teeth during that time.
  • When a doctor must remove teeth before placing implants, they may complete extractions, bone grafting, and implant placement during one appointment. Healing will take four to six months.
  • After your jawbone and implants integrate, your doctor will expose the implants, attach a connector (abutment), and allow several months for your gums to form around the abutments.
  • Your dentist will attach your final replacement teeth to the abutments.

A full-mouth reconstruction includes a combination of dental treatments. Your dentist and the doctor who places your implants (if different from your dentist) will coordinate your care. Your dentist will give you an estimate of the total time for restoring your oral health and smile.


Before-and-after patient photos for full-mouth reconstruction
Photos of one of Dr. Lim’s full-mouth reconstruction patients

Dr. Heng Lim, an Owasso, Oklahoma dentist, sponsors this post.