Ridge augmentation is often suggested when the patient has a large depression, cleft, or crease in the gum which is esthetically unpleasing or has a tendency to trap food. This condition is often treated prior to fabrication of replacement teeth or a new dental bridge. The purpose of this procedure is to “build up” the gum tissue, allowing the restorative dentist to create tooth replacements that emerge naturally from the gum tissue with normal cosmetic proportions.
Esthetically pleasing, natural looking teeth depend not only on the form and shade of the teeth, but also in the shape and contour of the surrounding gums. In areas where teeth have been lost, the bone and gum tissue in the area, lacking the natural support of dental roots, will often shrink and recede over time. If the tooth or teeth were lost due to infection, fracture, or trauma, the damage to the underlying jawbone and gum can be severe. This can result in a depression or concavity of the gum in the affected area. If new teeth are fabricated to the level of the damaged gum, the result will be out of proportion to the adjacent teeth and look artificial or unnatural.
Traditionally, gum tissue from other areas of the mouth, usually the palate, has been used as a donor site for ridge augmentation. In some cases, particularly large defects, other materials may be used instead of, or in conjunction with the gum graft.
Ridge augmentation is a predictable procedure that will correct the defects caused by bone loss and gum recession in areas with missing teeth. More importantly, this procedure allows the chance to return the harmonious contours of the gums that existed before the loss of the tooth, creating the opportunity for a natural and esthetic new smile.