Bone loss or deterioration can have a serious impact on your dental health. A healthy jaw bone is critical for tooth retention, oral health, and for maintaining your overall appearance. If your bone tissue deteriorates or is of poor quality, it will affect the function and appearance of your teeth, and may even cause your teeth to fall out. This in turn will cause your mouth and face to lose its structure and affect your appearance.
Teeth and bone structure may be lost or reduced in quality due to:
- Disease (severe periodontal disease, tooth decay)
- Dental procedures (such as extractions, or a restorative treatment like dentures or bridgework)
- Injury or trauma (including fractures)
- Developmental deformities (misalignment, etc.)
Solutions for restoring lost bone structure often involve a bone grafting treatment. Bone grafting helps to regenerate healthy bone tissue, and is most commonly recommended by dentists in preparation for a dental implant.
Periodontal Disease & Decay
The more severe stage of periodontal disease, periodontitis, causes gum recession and bone deterioration, both of which contribute to the loss of teeth. Likewise, tooth decay can eventually lead to extraction, which contributes to bone loss.
Your natural teeth are embedded in the jaw bone (socket), and attached via their root structure and periodontal (gum) ligament. Bone tissue is stimulated and maintained through placing pressure on this ligament – everyday activities such as chewing and biting ensure that the bone remains healthy and does not deteriorate.
When permanent teeth are removed, bone stimulation at that site in the mouth stops, and the alveolar bone (the portion of the jaw that anchors the teeth in place), begins to resorb (shrink or melt away). This is a natural process, albeit a process that damages your oral health. Most bone loss will occur during the first 18 months following the loss of a tooth, and will continue in varying degrees throughout your life if left untreated.
The best treatment to prevent bone resorption is a dental implant. Dental implants mimic the function of the natural tooth, stimulating the bone tissues to keep them healthy and functioning properly. If you have lost bone tissue prior to receiving and implant your dentist may need to provide a bone grafting treatment to regenerate enough bone tissue to support your implant. If you have lost a tooth, consult your dentist to learn if implant dentistry is a good option for you, and what steps you would need to take to receive an implant.
Dentures are intended to correct the challenge of missing teeth in terms of appearance and function, but cannot be designed to mimic the natural tooth’s ability to stimulate the jawbone the way that implants can. Dentures rest on top the gums, and rely and the support from your gums and underlying bone structure to remain in place. This effect is called adhesion. As bone resorption progresses, the denture becomes loose and ill-fitting. Your dentist can provide a denture reline, which fixes the problem in the short term. As the shrinkage continues over time, new or relined dentures and denture adhesives will become less and less effective.
If you have received restorative bridgework, the anchoring teeth, or abutment teeth, on each side of the missing tooth will continue to stimulate your underlying bone structure. However, the portion of the bone under the site of the missing tooth will continue to deteriorate. The deterioration may actually be more severe than normal in some cases.
Fractures, Trauma, & Injury
If a fracture in the jaw bone fails to heal, it can cause gaps between the broken bone segments that may include a tooth or teeth as well as the surrounding structures. These gaps typically range form 1-1.5 mm in size. Teeth that have been injured or experienced trauma may become necrotic, or die, even years after the trauma occurred. In some cases, bone loss may also occur due to resorption of the bone and tooth structures.
Misaligned teeth can create an oral environment where tooth structure no longer have an opposing tooth structure to provide appropriate stimulation. The unopposed tooth may grow out of position (over-erupt), leading to the deterioration of the underlying bone.