The alveolar ridges are two narrow ridges of tissue that run just below your gums and give support to your upper and lower teeth. They also help to define the curvature and proportions of your smile. If these bones have begun to recede, particularly after tooth loss or a dental extraction, your dentist may suggest a ridge augmentation. Similar to a traditional bone graft, this treatment involves rebuilding the alveolar ridges using one of several types of tissue. The procedure can improve the fit of a removable denture and protect your long-term oral health.
Candidates for Ridge Augmentation
Tooth loss or an extraction can leave behind an empty socket in the bone and an indentation in the gum line. Without teeth to stimulate the jawbone and keep it strong and healthy, the bone will continue to recede. This process can affect both the aesthetics of your smile and your ability to receive restorations. If you are interested in dental implants or traditional dentures, your doctor may recommend a ridge augmentation to fortify the bone. However, as this is a surgical procedure, you must be healthy enough for treatment. You should have a strong immune system and healthy circulatory system to ensure a complete recovery. Chronic conditions, such as an autoimmune disease or diabetes, may affect your eligibility for treatment. It is important to discuss your medical history with your dentist or oral surgeon.
Preparing for Ridge Augmentation
If you are a good candidate for ridge augmentation, your doctor can begin designing your treatment plan. X-rays and digital imaging can reveal areas of bone degeneration and help your doctor determine the shape and size of your graft. Additionally, your doctor can ascertain the most suitable grafting material.
Bone recession takes place rapidly after tooth loss or extraction. By acting proactively, your dentist can prevent recession and preserve the structure of your jawbone.
You will also play a role in preparing for surgery. Your doctor will outline steps you can take for a faster and more successful recovery. You should quit smoking at least three weeks before treatment, as tobacco products can interfere with healing. You should also stop taking anticoagulants, certain anti-inflammatories, and herbal supplements for the two weeks leading up to your surgery. Be sure to tell your doctor about any medications you take at your initial consultation.
The Ridge Augmentation Procedure
Ridge augmentation is always performed using local anesthetic, but many dentists provide deeper sedation for your comfort. Nitrous oxide, oral conscious sedation, and intravenous (IV) medications are all safe and reliable options.
During the procedure, your practitioner can clean the tooth socket and place the chosen grafting material. Small titanium screws will anchor the new tissue in place, stabilizing the graft until it has fused with the alveolar ridge. The incision will then be closed using sutures.
Types of Grafting Materials
There are multiple options when it comes to grafting material. Your doctor may use your own tissue (known as an autograft), which is typically harvested in a separate surgery from the hard palate or underside of your chin. The advantage of this method is that it eliminates the risk for allergic reaction. Alternatively, you may choose donor tissue (allograft) or animal tissue (xenograft). These methods do not require a second procedure, but they do pose a higher risk for complications. Your doctor may also use biocompatible synthetic material, which is especially helpful if you do not have sufficient tissue elsewhere in your mouth.
Guided Bone Regeneration
It is becoming increasingly common for dentists to perform guided bone regeneration (GBR) in conjunction with ridge augmentation. This technique involves placing a growth membrane over the tooth socket or grafting site. This material will stimulate healing, encourage new bone growth, and help the graft to integrate with your jaw. It will also help to hold the healing blood clot in place, preventing a painful dry socket.
Recovery and Healing
After ridge augmentation, it is important to rest and avoid strenuous activities. It is common to experience mild to moderate discomfort for a week or two, as well as swelling, bruising, and inflammation. You can minimize side effects by taking anti-inflammatories as instructed. Ice packs will also help keep swelling down. It is also important to refrain from spitting or using a straw for the first 24 to 48 hours, as this can dislodge the blood clot. In most cases, you will also need to eat a soft diet for several days, gradually adding in new foods as your gums start to heal. You should avoid very spicy, crunchy, or hard foods for several weeks so as not to disrupt healing.
While every patient heals at a different rate, full recovery typically takes between six and nine months. During this period, the new bone tissue will fuse with your alveolar ridge, becoming a permanent part of your anatomy.
Risks of Ridge Augmentation
Ridge augmentation has a high success rate, but all surgeries carry some risks. Long-term complications from this procedure can include:
- Allergic reaction to the grafting material
- Rejection of the graft
- Bone resorption
- Excessive bleeding
- Abnormal bone growth or development
- Nerve damage
To minimize your risks, it is important to work with a qualified surgeon with an established track record of success.
Long-Lasting Benefits of Ridge Augmentation
Ridge augmentation has several noteworthy benefits, including:
- Reduced chance of additional bone and tooth loss: Bone recession takes place rapidly after tooth loss or extraction. By acting proactively, your dentist can prevent recession and preserve the structure of your jawbone.
- Improved fit for dental restorations: Traditional full and partial dentures fit around the alveolar ridge, and they are made specifically to match the curvature of the bone. If your ridge is uneven or compromised, your denture may become insecure or uncomfortable. The restoration could even slip out of place. Ridge augmentation can build a strong base for your prosthetic.
- Better stability for dental implants: Dental implants need strong, healthy jaw tissue for stability. If your alveolar ridge has started to recede, dental implants can weaken or fail altogether. Ridge augmentation can restore jawbone tissue for a success implants treatment.
- Improved appearance: Your alveolar ridges form a framework for your smile. After ridge augmentation, you could enjoy a more even grin and a more youthful look.
If you are preparing for an extraction or you are missing teeth, ridge augmentation surgery may be a great way to safeguard your lifelong oral health, your smile, and your self-confidence.