When you attend a periodontist for dental implant replacement therapy, the periodontist may recommend an additional soft tissue procedure (soft tissue augmentation or soft tissue graft) along with the treatment. This may be recommended to be undertaken prior to, simultaneous with, or at the time of uncovering of the implant.

This may also be the case when you attend a periodontist for a bone grafting procedure or for the resolution of an infection around the implant or a gum recession which is occurring around an implant. The soft tissue augmentation procedure may be recommended to you before, simultaneous, or after a bone graft, or for the purpose of resolution of an infection around the implant in combination with other treatments, or to enhance the compromised aesthetic of an existing implant.

Whilst dental implants are placed within the jawbone in which the availability and sufficiency is critical, the gum (soft tissues) covering the implants are of paramount importance for different reasons. In fact, whilst the early days of implant dentistry mainly focused on the bone aspect of the implant procedures, nowadays the focus is on both surrounding hard and soft tissues due to a great amount of knowledge gained throughout the years.

The soft tissue component around dental implants is important both in quality and quantity. With regards to quality, the soft tissue shouldn’t be mobile but firmly attached, with a type which is specialised for chewing. This type of gum makes it easier for daily cleaning and is more resistant to gum recession in the future. In terms of quantity, the thickness of the gum around the neck of the implant is critical as it is biologically protecting the underlying components as well as playing a significant role in the aesthetics by masking the colour of the components which are located under the gum.

The soft tissue conditioning around dental implants is mainly undertaken by free grafts which are generally harvested from the palate of the patient. The harvested graft in different forms is transplanted to the area of interest. These procedures which are being undertaken by a periodontist are generally minimally invasive and the recovery is usually fast and uneventful after a few weeks. You may be offered some synthetic alternatives to your own tissue with animal or human origin in certain clinical scenarios, which can be advantageous in terms of recovery and the duration of the operation should this be indicated correctly.