The most common cause of tooth loss in the U.S. today is periodontal disease, a disease that especially affects the elderly. And considering that our population is aging rapidly and living longer than ever before, long-term tooth loss (which puts you at high risk of bone loss) will only become more common in the years ahead.
But how does tooth loss lead to bone loss? It works like this: the material in your jawbone is maintained by the pressure and stimuli it receives during chewing. Once a tooth is missing, the gums and underlying bone mass naturally shrink down. Within the first year after a tooth is lost, around a quarter of the bone mass below it is reabsorbed into the body. To be more specific, the bone loss tooth loss triggers is from the alveolar ridge bone, which is the bone that teeth are naturally embedded in. And loss of the upper molars can lead to an expanded sinus cavity that, however, has lost much of its bone lining.
In the most extreme case, the alveolar bone almost completely disappears. This then causes "face collapse," a condition affecting the lower third of one's face. The nose is moved slightly closer to the chin, the upper lips tilt inward, deep wrinkles form in the affected area, and sagging skin hangs from the cheeks. The result is that one looks significantly older than he/she really is.
Dentures Are Not Normally the Best Answer
Although dentures were standard in the past, longer life spans mean dentures are worn longer and that their negative effects can become more pronounced.Dentures simply don't put enough pressure on underlying bone. Often, they exert a tenth of less of the pressure of natural teeth. And to make matters worse, dentures can wear down your alveolar ridge bone and increase the odds of eventual face collapse. Thus, accelerating instead of curbing bone loss is a possible side effect of wearing dentures. And as the bone ridge is worn down, and as "sore spots" develop, your dentures will have to be refitted from time to time. Dental implants avoid all of these problems.
Dental Implants and Bone Grafting Surgery
Modern dental implants can both replace missing teeth and prevent the reabsorption of jawbone tissue. Titanium support rods (fully nontoxic) support a dental crown that closely mimics the look, feel, and function of a natural tooth. The titanium rods are either embedded into the bone or laid on top of it. Either way, the titanium bonds firmly to the bone matter. This means you can chew safely with full force and keep your alveolar ridge bone stimulated to prevent reabsorption. In some cases, the bone may already have shrunk under missing teeth. In this case, bone grafting can build up the alveolar ridge to support a dental implant.
If you have lost one or more teeth and want to learn more about how dental implants can help, in the Ormond Beach, FL, region, contact Dr. Raymond A. Kenzik.