About JawBone Health
When an individual is missing one or more teeth, bone loss at the site of the gap can occur, causing a number of complications. The loss of bone can lead to an unsightly appearance and a decline in your overall health. Patients may experience discomfort, shifting of their remaining teeth, and an altered facial appearance. In some cases, your speech and ability to eat may also become affected.
In as much as muscles need exercise to maintain strength, bone tissue needs stimulation by a tooth or tooth-like structure to stay strong. Our natural teeth stimulate our jawbone through movements that occur when we chew and bite. Teeth that are missing cannot stimulate the alveolar bone or jaw, causing it to break down from lack of use.
Tooth & Bone Loss
Some of the potential consequences of tooth and jawbone loss include:
- Shifting, loosening, or loss of remaining teeth
- Altered facial appearance
- A lack of lip support
- Jaw pain, headaches, facial pain
- Difficulty speaking with confidence, altered speech
- Inadequate nutrition
- Sinus expansion
Below are the most common causes of jawbone deterioration and loss that could lead to the need for a bone grafting procedure:
When an adult tooth is extracted and not immediately replaced, jawbone deterioration often occurs. The rate and amount of the deterioration vary greatly from one patient to the next. However, a majority of the deterioration occurs within the first eighteen months after extraction and continues for the rest of your life if the tooth is not replaced.
Periodontal disease is an ongoing infection of the gums that can gradually destroy your teeth, gums, and jaw over time. The disease can affect the alveolar bone, periodontal ligament, cementum, and/or gingiva. Periodontal disease deteriorates the structures in two primary phases: gingivitis and periodontitis. While gingivitis, the less serious of the diseases, may never progress into periodontitis, it always precedes periodontitis.
A buildup of dental plaque is the primary cause of gingivitis. This is a sticky, colorless film composed mostly of food particles and bacteria, which may stick to the teeth at or below your gumline. Plaque is unavoidable and constantly forms on your teeth. The substance contains bacteria that can cause irritation and inflammation of the gums if it is not properly removed during daily brushing and flossing and/or regular dental cleanings.
When gingivitis progresses into periodontitis, the gum tissue and bone that supports your teeth will begin to deteriorate. If allowed to progress, the loss of bone will eventually lead to the loosening and loss of your teeth.
Traditional dentures are placed in the mouth on top of the gum. This does not stimulate the underlying bone and will allow the bone to deteriorate and resorb over time. As these dentures rely on the underlying bone to hold them in place, patients often experience loosening of their dentures and ultimately, problems eating and speaking. Some dentures are supported by anchors, which do help adequately stimulate, and therefore, preserve bone.
With dental bridges, the teeth on either side of the appliance provide stimulate the jawbone. However, the portion of the bridge that fills the gap of missing teeth does not receive stimulation. Bone loss typically occurs in these areas. A bone graft procedure in these areas can restore function and growth, and help combat the issue of poorly fitting dentures.
If a tooth is broken or knocked out so severely that no biting surface remains below the gumline, the stimulation of the bone is prevented, resulting in bone loss over time. Common forms of jaw and tooth trauma occur from injury or accidents and can cause the teeth to die, leading to bone loss for years following the incident. In these cases, a bone grafting procedure would be necessary to reverse the effects of bone deterioration, restoring function and promoting new bone growth in traumatized areas.
Tooth misalignment issues occur when teeth no longer have an opposing tooth structure, causing them to over-erupt, leading to deterioration of the underlying bone.
Similarly, issues, such as TMJ, normal wear and tear, and lack of proper dental care, can also lead to abnormal physical forces that impede the teeth’s ability to meet and chew properly. Over time, bone deterioration can occur where the bone is losing stimulation.
Osteomyelitis is a bacterial infection of the bone and bone marrow of the jaw, which can lead to inflammation, in turn, causing a reduction of blood supply to the bone. Treatment options for osteomyelitis generally include antibiotics, as well as the removal of the affected bone. Bone grafting procedures are often required in these cases to restore bone function and growth.
Malignant or cancerous oral tumors nearly always spread into the jawbone and require the subsequent removal of that section of the jaw. Benign (noncancerous) facial tumors, although typically non-threatening, can grow so large that they require the removal of a portion of the jaw. In either case, reconstructive bone grafting is often required to restore the function and appearance of the jaw. Grafting in patients with malignant tumors are typically more challenging as the treatment of the tumor often requires the removal of surrounding soft tissue.
When birth defects affect the jaw, skull, teeth, or face, the specialists at NobelPerio may be able to help restore function, growth, and appearance with specialized bone grafting procedures.
Sinus deficiencies occur over several years following the removal of molars. When molars are removed from the upper jaw, air pressure from the air cavity in the maxilla (maxillary sinus) causes resorption of the bone that formerly helped the teeth in place. This can lead to the inflammation of the sinuses, a condition known as hyperpneumatized sinus. A sinus lift, performed by Dr. Ramirez can treat this condition.
Tooth removal is not always avoidable. In cases where a tooth is causing pain, is badly infected or fractured, it may need to be removed. In any case, the bone that holds the tooth in place is often damaged following removal. Over time, the surrounding bone and gums will shrink and recede, resulting in facial appearance changes and the collapse of the lips and cheeks.
Though common, these defects can create complications during your restorative dentistry treatments. Many of these problems can be prevented and/or repaired with a procedure called socket preservation. This procedure will greatly improve your smile and the functionality of your teeth, thereby, increasing your chances for obtaining lasting dental implants.
In addition, many innovative techniques can be used to preserve the bone and minimize bone loss following extraction. For socket preservation, the tooth is removed and the socket is filled with bone or bone substitute material. Next, it is covered with gum, artificial membrane, or tissue-stimulating proteins to encourage your body to naturally repair the socket. This helps the socket heal on its own, eliminating shrinkage and preventing the collapse of surrounding gum and facial tissues. Socket preservation is an ideal procedure for those hoping to obtain dental implants in the future.