The system of the human jaw is very complex. When a tooth is removed, the health of the bone and soft tissue around it is also affected. Jawbone in that area may be absorbed back into the body, and gum tissue will often recede as well. This can make it difficult for dentists to insert dental implants to restore the appearance and function of the missing tooth. In these cases, ridge augmentation can be necessary.
Ridge augmentation is a general term for several processes that can be completed to build up soft tissues or bone in the area where a tooth is missing. These are done before dental implants are inserted, to provide a proper base for the implants and crowns.
One common type of ridge augmentation is bone grafting. In this process, bone tissue is inserted into an area against the upper or lower jaw, usually where the natural bone has receded. It is most often bone taken from another area in your body. Generally, this is from the chin or elsewhere on the face, but it can also be taken from the hip area. Over the months after it is inserted, the new bone material will fuse with the existing jawbone, creating a larger structure that is able to accept dental implants.
Grafts are probably the most common way to promote bone growth, but there are other processes as well. In all cases, the goal is to get enough bone that dental implants can be successfully inserted. In the case of the upper jaw, this often requires moving the sinus membranes upward as well.
Soft tissues can also be grafted. In this case, we are mainly talking about the gums. If the gums have receded too much, it will be a problem for the base of the crown, and it will also not look as good. Periodontists specialize in grafting and regrowing gum tissue to deal with functional or aesthetic issues.
Ridge augmentation often requires extensive healing time. Usually, a ridge augmentation procedure will take place several months before the dental implants are actually inserted. This is because the augmentation procedures use the body’s natural healing processes to connect the newly inserted tissues to the existing tissues, and that takes time. However, they can be the main solution for those who have lost bone or soft tissue in the area of their missing tooth but who still want an implant.