Most dental patients typically don’t think about their jawbone very often, but those seeking dental implants may be told that their jawbone isn’t wide enough or doesn’t have enough mass to support an implant. In situations like these, dentists like Dr. Allen Gotora from Stellar Dental often perform a very unique procedure to fix this issue: ridge augmentation.
What is Ridge Augmentation?
Ridge augmentation, as the name explains, is a dental procedure in which the “ridge” (also known as the alveolar crest) of the mouth is expanded. This is done typically through a bone graft that adds mass and volume to the alveolar crest.
The alveolar crest is the bone located directly beneath the gums, where the roots of your teeth attach. Most of the time, this ridge actually matters very little to the rest of the mouth. So long as there are healthy teeth attached to this part of the jawbone, the alveolar crest will stay pretty stable, unaffected by anything that happens in the mouth.
In some situations, such as after you lose a tooth, though, the alveolar crest can begin to change. When the ridge of your mouth detects the absence of a tooth, it will slowly draw back and lose mass because that part of the jawbone is technically no longer needed by the mouth. From a biological standpoint, this makes a lot of sense. If you don’t need the bone, your mouth will adjust accordingly, but biology cannot anticipate for future efforts to restore the area. A receded alveolar crest can be problematic when a patient wants a dental implant to replace the missing tooth or teeth.
In response to this and to provide patients with the best potential results, dentists have developed a procedure than can reverse the gum recession process and add mass back to the alveolar crest: ridge augmentation. Ridge augmentation replaces the missing bone via a bone graft to the jawbone. Over time, about three months, the graft will fuse to the existing bone, providing the structure necessary to support a future dental implant.
What is the ridge augmentation procedure like?
The bone graft used can be taken from a variety of places, including another part of the body (like the chin), a bone donor, an animal bone (cow bone can be effectively used), or even a synthetically created bone-like substance. What Dr. Gotora recommends for your mouth completely depends on your specific situation, but dentists typically prefer to use grafts from another part of your body because the healing process will be smoother.
Why might a ridge augmentation be needed?
We’ve described one of the most common reasons the jawbone may recede above, but a missing tooth is by no means the only thing that causes the jawbone to lose mass. In fact, there are a variety of reasons why patients may experience “jaw deformities,” including:
Edentulism (tooth loss): As we mentioned above, a person’s jawbone will often recede to compensate for a missing tooth. This process likely takes several years though. If you’ve recently lost a tooth, you should ask for a dental implant as soon as possible to decrease the likelihood that you will need a further procedure like ridge augmentation.
Gum disease: Severe periodontitis, or gum disease, is characterized by a bacterial infection that attacks the tissues and bone beneath the gums. Over time, the bacteria that cause gum disease can eat away at the jawbone, causing the alveolar crest to recede. Luckily, periodontitis, once caught, can be treated before it advances to this point. This is one of the reasons brushing, flossing, and visiting your dentist is so important!
Trauma: Sometimes, your jawbone may lose mass as a result of a traumatic injury or blow. Because accidents like these cannot be predicted, the results of such an injury can be difficult to determine as well. Thus, if you ever seriously injured your jawbone, you should visit a dentist to make sure you won’t need procedures like ridge augmentation in the future.
Genetics: Finally, sometimes you may just be unlucky. Some people are naturally born with thin ridges, and nothing they do can change the effects of genetics on the equation. Getting a ridge augmentation may just be a process you need to go through at some point in your life, and it’s always better to start the process knowing exactly what you’ll need.
If you would like to have a dental implant, but wonder if you have enough bone for one, just contact a dentist like Dr. Allen Gotora from Stellar Dental to discuss your potential eligibility for ridge augmentation. You can set up appointment today by calling (301) 754-1900 or by visiting the website.