For older men and women, bone loss is a health concern that drastically affects their overall health and ability to a better quality of life. Bone loss throughout the jawbone most commonly occurs from missing teeth and chronic periodontal disease. While for periodontal disease, the cause of bone loss stems from uncontrolled bacteria growth, teeth play an essential role in maintaining the jaw’s structure and keeping the mouth in a stable position throughout a person’s life. According to the CDC, nearly 1 in 5 adults ages 65 and older have lost all their teeth, and as people age, the rate at which tooth loss occurs heavily increased by over 26%. For those who have at least one missing tooth, it is important to replace that missing tooth as soon as possible, as the rate of bone loss increases substantially.
How Missing Teeth Contribute To Bone Loss
Missing teeth can occur due to various factors; trauma, tooth decay, and periodontal disease play hefty roles in the degradation of oral health for people of all ages. Even one missing tooth can cause drastic impacts to the mouth’s alignment, causing the teeth to shift and move into the missing spaces, leading to a substantial malocclusion that alters the integrity of the mouth. When those teeth misalign, it can impact the gums, causing an increased risk of plaque development, gum disease, and tooth decay. This ultimately causes a cycle of infection and decay that can result in more teeth becoming loose, resulting in massive tooth loss.
Tooth loss also results in the bone structure of the jaw becoming reabsorbed into the jawline. This re-absorption occurs due to the constant pressure applied by the adjacent teeth through biting and clenching. Ultimately, in worse-case scenarios, missing teeth can cause the jawline to recede. As the re-absorption process occurs, bone loss continues to progress to the point where the jaw becomes weak enough that it recedes, losing its structure and causing a facial collapse. The bones become more porous, losing their bone density and creating a cycle of tooth loss and tooth decay that’s difficult to maintain without treatment. Other conditions, including osteoporosis, can increase the effects of bone loss.
Preventing and Treating Bone Loss
For dentists and periodontists, dental x-rays are a key aspect of diagnosing bone loss in its earliest stages. Dental x-rays provide us with a unique position to identify patients with low bone density and treat the condition. For prevention, we highly recommend:
- Eating a well-balanced diet containing vitamin D and calcium
- Engaging in 30 minutes of exercise each day
- Avoid smoking and limiting alcohol intake
- Report any problems of missing teeth, gum recession, and ill-fitting dentures to your dentists
For various treatments, bone grafts and sinus lifts can provide the bones with a synthetic bone to reabsorb and help maintain better bone density before replacing missing teeth. Implants are also an option for replacing missing teeth due to the constant stimulation implants provide to both the adjacent teeth and jawline.
If you’ve begun to notice any signs of dental problems, including loose teeth or a receding gum line, contact your primary dentist or periodontist to schedule an appointment to receive treatment.