The main objective of dental treatment is to save teeth. However, tooth extraction is sometimes necessary. When a tooth is extracted, the bone and gum surrounding the extracted tooth often shrink very quickly.
What Happens after Tooth Extraction?
About 40% of alveolar height and 60% of alveolar width is lost within 6 months after tooth. The bone shrinkage causes collapse of the alveolar ridge, loss of width and height of bone, and a defect that may interfere with future tooth replacement by a bridge or a dental implant.
- If a bridge is planned, the defect often causes esthetic failure and compromises the final results.
- If a dental implant is planned, it is best to place the implant at the time of tooth extraction (immediate implant placement). Otherwise, the bone shrinks, causing a defect in width and height of the alveolar ridge. This can prevent tooth replacement with a dental implant. Often these cases require bone grafting (ridge augmentation) before an implant is placed. These problems can be prevented by a procedure called socket preservation or ridge preservation.
What is Socket Preservation?
Socket preservation or ridge preservation is a procedure to reduce bone shrinkage after tooth extraction. Reducing bone shrinkage preserves the alveolar ridge. Socket preservation at the time of tooth extraction can save you the need to have a more invasive procedure in the future to rebuild the lost bone structure around the extracted tooth.
How is Socket Preservation Done?
The tooth is carefully and atrumatically extracted. The socket is filled with a bone graft or a bone substitute. The graft is covered by a membrane, which is sutured in place. The bone graft is remodeled and replaced by the patient’ own bone. Both the bone graft and membrane allow the extraction socket to heal with little if any bone shrinkage. This saves the patient from the need for extensive ridge augmentation to facilitate restorative dentistry. The following post operative was actually taken immediately after the tooth was extracted. Notice that the socket looks full of bone.