Ridge augmentation is a common procedure performed to help recreate the natural contour of the gums. Often, after a tooth is removed, the bone in the jaw will begin to deteriorate and recede. The height and width of the socket, which was supported by the tooth, will begin to shrink after the tooth is removed. Many patients will eventually develop an indentation in the gums where the tooth used to be as a result of tooth and bone loss.
Restoring the natural contour of the gums is not usually medically necessary. It is often recommended when a large depression or cleft exists in the gum tissues, which can trap food and bacteria. Ridge augmentation is frequently performed for aesthetic reasons, as the ridge is a very important structure in the mouth.
Another purpose of ridge augmentation is to increase the amount of gum tissue in areas of deficit for tooth replacement, so that the teeth appear to rise from the gum tissues. This procedure may be necessary in order to place a dental implant. If the bone tissue has deteriorated too much, placing a dental implant may not be possible without an additional procedure.
There are two types of ridge augmentation procedures: soft tissue and hard tissue. Occasionally, both types of ridge augmentation are performed at once.
Soft tissue augmentation is usually done to improve the esthetics of the site. Prior to the procedure, the area will be numbed. An incision is made to expose the site and a soft tissue graft is then obtained either from the palate (roof of the mouth) or another source. The graft is then placed into the area in need and secured with sutures.
Hard tissue augmentation is performed to recreate adequate bone contouring prior to dental implants or other tooth replacement procedures. Prior to the procedure, the area will be numbed. An incision is made and the gum lifted away to expose the bony defect. A bone graft obtained either from another site within the mouth or a donor source is placed in the area receiving the graft. The site is then closed with sutures.
Healing time varies by patient and the size of the area repaired, but generally lasts between four and six months.