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Can A Missing Tooth Lead to Bone Loss?

Our teeth have many important functions. We need them to chew our food, talk, and smile. But have you ever considered their role in holding up your face? When we lose teeth, the bone around the site of the extraction begins to shrink. This, in turn, causes our facial muscles to sink in and collapse. People with missing teeth not only have an unsightly gap in their smile, but they also begin to look older because of the bone recession and eventual facial sagging.  It is not simply an issue of attractiveness – it poses serious health dangers. Without a replacement tooth or dental solution, 25% of bone is lost within the first year of a tooth extraction and will continue to deteriorate over time.

Bone loss can occur for a number of reasons, but the most common cause of bone loss is the result of a missing tooth or several teeth which have not been replaced or substituted. Natural teeth that are embedded in the jawbone help stimulate bone growth through chewing and biting. When missing teeth are left untreated, the bone no longer receives this stimulation, causing the bone to resorb.

 Bone Metabolism

We sometimes think of bone as a solid mass, unlike the softer tissues in our body. In reality, below the seemingly rock-hard surface, bone tissue is full of small holes – kind of like a sponge. In the interior bone tissue, the bone is continuously regenerating itself. This critical process is sometimes called “bone metabolism.” In the jaw bone, the movement of the teeth stimulates this process of rebuilding. When the tooth is gone, the bone starts to shrink as blood flow is reduced.

What causes bone loss?

The most common causes for jawbone deterioration and loss include:

1. Tooth extractions

Natural teeth help stimulate bone growth through various activities, including biting and chewing. When a tooth is extracted but not replaced, that portion of the jawbone no longer receives the required stimulation and starts to deteriorate and resorb.

2. Gum disease

Serious gum infections such as gingivitis or periodontitis damage soft tissue and destroy the bone structure that supports your teeth.

Dental plaque is the most common form of tooth decay and the primary cause of gingivitis. Plaque is easily preventable with daily brushing and flossing, but if left unchecked, can harden into a rough, porous substance known as tartar. This can occur both above and below the gum line and can irritate the gums, causing them to become inflamed, red, swollen and bleed easily.

3. Dentures or bridgework

Loose dentures that are placed on top of the gum line may not necessarily provide any direct stimulation to the underlying jawbone and rely on the current bone structure to be held securely into place.

4. Trauma

If a tooth is knocked out or damaged and can no longer provide the stimulation received from biting or chewing, jawbone loss may occur. Common forms of trauma are usually the result of a sport-related injury, including jaw fractures, knocked out, cracked or chipped teeth.

5. Misalignment

Bone loss can occur from misalignment when teeth are no longer providing direct stimulation as a result of not having an opposing tooth structure. Other misalignment issues, including TMJ, wisdom teeth erupting, lack of treatment and normal wear-and-tear can also result in the inability to perform natural activities such as chewing and biting.

Bone loss can occur for a number of reasons, only your dentist will be able to provide you with the exact cause and the type of dental solution needed to prevent any further loss.

Dental Implants Can Prevent Bone Recession

Modern dentistry to the rescue! Dental implant technology provides a tooth restoration solution that maintains healthy bone metabolism while providing near-normal tooth function. For patients missing many (or all) of their teeth, it may not be possible to replace every single tooth with an implant. In many of these cases, dental implants can be used to provide an anchor for a partial denture.