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Why Do You Need Keratinized Tissue For Your Dental Implants?

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If you are planning on getting dental implants, you may have already learned why you need strong jawbone for the implant to be a success. Strong bone tissue is vital for osseointegration, or the anchoring of the implant into living bone. Besides strong bone tissue, you will also need healthy keratinized tissue for an implant procedure. Take a look at why keratinized tissue is important and how to improve this oral structure before implant surgery.

What Is Keratinized Tissue and Why Is It Important?

Keratinized tissue describes cells that contain large amounts of keratin, a natural protein. You may have heard of keratin before, as it keeps nails, hair, and skin healthy. In the oral cavity, keratinized tissue can be found in the gum tissue, especially around the area where gums attach to tooth necks. Depending on your skin tone, healthy keratinized gum tissue can range from light pink to brown in color. If you have unhealthy keratinized tissue, then it may be swollen or red.   

Like strong bone tissue, keratinized gum tissue plays a role in securing teeth—and implants—in place. This tissue also protects tooth roots, or in the case of the implant, the implant body/post below the gumline. According to the Journal of Periodontology, having less than 2 mm of keratinized tissue around dental implants is associated with peri-implant diseases.

How Can Your Dentist Help You Increase Gum Tissue?

If you have unhealthy keratinized tissue, your dentist may want to improve it before proceeding with an implant procedure. To improve this tissue, your dentist may opt for gum grafts or a modified apically repositioned flap (MARF) technique surgery.

Gum Grafts

Sometimes gum grafts are needed if you have receding gums from bruxism or gum disease. Your dentist can use tissue from the roof of your mouth to create a keratinized tissue graft. If you have unhealthy tissue around the future implant site, your dentist might debride that tissue before placing the gum graft; if you don't have enough healthy tissue on the roof of your mouth, then he or she can use donor tissue. Once the graft is placed, sutures are used to secure it in place.

MARF Technique Surgery

During MARF technique surgery, your dentist will use a scalpel near the future implant site to and make an incision in the gum tissue. This gum tissue is then rolled or stretched over the future implant area and sutured in place. There are some advantages to this surgery over gum grafts. First, you dentist will not need to make a second surgical site to produce a graft. Secondly, one study found this to be a simple surgery that produces long-term stability of keratinized tissue.

Reach out to a dentist to see if you'd benefit from improving keratinized tissue before your implant surgery.