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A soft tissue ridge augmentation is used to repair gum tissue so that it can accommodate long-term tooth replacement without any further decay or degradation of the surrounding tissue.
Normally when you lose teeth, you require dental implants, crowns, bridges, dentures, or hybrid treatments to restore them. However, occasionally the damage to the surrounding tissue can be so great that these medical interventions are not sufficient to recover your smile.
When this happens, you may require soft tissue ridge augmentation. This procedure uses techniques that eliminate unsightly indentations in your gum line and restore the natural, healthy appearance of your teeth, without making your crowns look excessively long.
We use soft tissue ridge augmentation when a tooth has been lost and there is extreme loss of bone and/ or gum tissue under a bridge. When a tooth is lost an ugly depression in the gum and bone usually appears. The missing tooth is replaced with a “dummy” or artificial tooth (called a pontic) to fill this space. If significant gum and/ or bone has been lost, the pontic must be larger and longer to fill the lost tissue space. If a pontic is longer than other teeth, this creates and unnatural appearance to the bridge and your smile. If the gum and bone has already collapsed, a soft tissue ridge augmentation may be the answer to reconstruct the deformed area to create a natural looking tooth and beautiful smile. If needed, sedation dentistry can be used to keep you comfortable and relaxed.
The below pictures shows an ugly depression in gum and bone under the pontic in a bridge.
Tissue ridge reconstruction typically occurs before restorative dentistry, such as the fitting of a new bridge. We replace missing tissue via a series of grafts from other parts of the body – usually the palate – and then use these to reconstruct the gum line so that it appears natural again. As such, this is s surgical intervention and usually performed under local anesthetic.
The benefits of soft tissue ridge augmentation are tremendous:
Improved smile: The appearance of your smile can have a significant effect on how you feel. If you have significant bone and gum loss, your bridge might have an unnatural appearance, making you feel self-conscious in social situations. You may also have visible indentations along your gum line, indicating prior oral health problems. Soft tissue ridge augmentation helps to smooth over these cosmetic issues, improving your confidence.
Reduced opportunities for infection: Soft tissue indentations and clefts around a bridge not only make it appear unnatural, but they can also increase the likelihood of infection. Food can get caught in pockets, leading to bacterial buildup and, eventually, decay. Soft-tissue ridge augmentation is a preventative procedure that helps to keep periodontal disease at bay. Applying a graft helps to create a seal between the gum and the bridge, preventing bacteria in the oral cavity from penetrating gingival tissue and infecting the bone.
Keep breath fresh: Tissue ridge depressions can also lead to bad breath. Sometimes, toothbrushes can’t sweep out debris in the cleft, allowing it to build up, leading to foul odors. Ridge augmentation straightens the gum and eliminates these depressions, making it easier to clean.
Most patients receive soft tissue ridge augmentation procedures as part of restorative dentistry procedures – and that will vary from individual to individual.
Usually, soft tissue ridge augmentation occurs prior to the installation of prosthetics (such as bridges and crowns), but after the installation of implants. The goal is to prepare the gum so that it can accommodate long-term tooth replacements without any further decay or degradation of the surrounding tissue. If you already have implant crowns in place, we will usually remove these to access the gum below.
The procedure begins by applying a local anesthetic to the graft area to minimize discomfort. We then either take gum from another area of the mouth to use as the grafting material or the palate – the roof of the mouth – if there is no suitable donor material elsewhere. We then place the new tissue on the target area using specialist instruments and secure it into place with stitches.
Over time, the grafted tissue assumes the form of the rest of the gumline, producing natural-looking results. The depression in the gum appears minimized, and your mouth is then ready to receive restorative prosthetics.
After the procedure, we will send you home with special care instructions. You may need to limit the type of food and drink you consume, and you should avoid smoking at all costs, as this can interrupt the healing process and cause dental implants to fail.
The good news is that the vast majority of patients experience positive outcomes from soft tissue ridge augmentation, making it one of the most potent cosmetic and medical restorative dental techniques available.
Soft tissue ridge augmentation is suitable for the following dental situations:
Tooth loss: When patients lose teeth, it can sometimes cause the surrounding gum to recede, especially for teeth at the front of the mouth. In some cases, patients can also experience bone loss because of injury, dentures, or developmental problems. Soft tissue ridge augmentation takes the body’s own tissue and uses this to restore the area, preparing it for prosthetic tooth replacements. Thus, if you have lost a tooth for any reason, then you should consult with us about the need for soft tissue ridge augmentation. It may help you recover your original smile.
Decay: Decay can also make soft tissue ridge augmentation necessary. While bacteria attack the teeth, they can also cause serious damage to the gum and underlying bone as well, hollowing out oral tissue, and making it appear sunken, especially around bridges. Soft tissue ridge augmentation is ideal for any patient with a history of gum disease and tooth decay, particularly those with chronic periodontal infections.
Gum recession: Both aging and poor oral hygiene habits can lead to gum recession. Over time, receding gums expose the roots of teeth, making them look longer than they should, and increasing the likelihood of infection. Soft tissue ridge augmentation can help here too, restoring the gum line and creating a cordial environment for any necessary tooth replacement procedures.
If you have a cleft, depression, or missing sections of gum (especially around a bridge or crown), then you might be a candidate for soft tissue ridge augmentation. The procedure can yield excellent results and both enhances your confidence and your overall oral health.
If you’d like to discuss your options further, please schedule an appointment with Drs. Godat and King. They will show you the benefits of soft tissue augmentation and how it could help you restore your smile.
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