Localized alveolar ridge augmentation, also referred to as socket grafting or grafting of a buccal wall defect, is a common dental surgery that may be performed following the extraction of a tooth to help recreate the natural contour of the gums and jaw that may have been lost due to bone loss following – or as part of - a tooth extraction.
The alveolar ridge of the jaw is the bone that surrounds the roots of the teeth. When a tooth is removed, it leaves behind an empty socket in the alveolar ridge bone. Typically, this empty socket will heal of its own, filling in with bone and tissue. Sometimes the walls of the socket are thin and break during tooth removal, or were missing before the procedure. When the bony wall holding the tooth into the jaw on the side facing the cheek is missing, it's called a "buccal wall defect." These types of sockets typically do not heal to their previous height and width because they do not have intact, bony walls to guide bone regeneration. Bone typically will continue to be lost at this site, because there is no tooth to retain the bone.
Rebuilding the original height and width of the alveolar ridge is not critical to the patient's overall health, unless the patient wants to replace the original tooth with a dental implant or the lost tissue has caused an aesthetic problem. Dental implants require a certain amount of bone to support the base of the implant. Patients who are considering a dental implant may want to consider a bone grafting procedure into the socket to maintain the alveolar ridge height and width and enable future implant placement. Placing this type of graft material into the tooth socket has been shown to promote bone growth, prevent bone resorption after tooth extraction and preserve the height and width of the alveolar ridge. A ridge augmentation procedure is performed by placing graft material into the tooth socket. This may be done immediately after the tooth has been removed, eliminating the need for a second procedure later. The gum tissue is then advanced over the socket and sutured. Depending on the severity of the buccal wall defect, your doctor may choose to use a space-maintaining product such as mesh or a membrane over the top of the graft to help restore the height and width of the space created by the tooth and bone loss, and into which new bone should grow.
Once the socket area has healed, the alveolar ridge can be prepared for a dental implant or other dental restoration.