The Importance of Teeth for Jaw Bone Health
When one or more teeth are missing, it can lead to loss of bone at the site of the gap. This loss of bone can develop into additional problems, both with your appearance and your overall health. You may experience pain, problems with your remaining teeth, altered facial appearance and eventually even the inability to speak and eat normally.
In the same way that muscles are maintained through exercise, bone is maintained by use. Natural teeth are embedded in the jawbone and stimulate the bone through activities such as chewing and biting. When teeth are missing, the portion of the jaw that anchors the teeth in the mouth no longer receives the necessary stimulation and begins to break down. The body no longer uses the jaw, therefore it deteriorates and disappears.
Potential Consequences of Tooth and Jawbone Loss
- Problems with remaining teeth: misalignment, drifting, loosening and loss of teeth
- Collapsed facial profile
- Limited lip support
- Skin wrinkling around the mouth
- Distortion of other facial features
- Jaw (temporomandibular joint [TMJ]) pain, facial pain, and headaches
- Difficulty speaking and communicating
- Inadequate nutrition as a result of the inability to chew properly
- Sinus expansion
Dentures are placed on top of the gum line, and therefore do not provide any direct stimulation to the underlying alveolar bone. Over time, the lack of stimulation causes the bone to resorb. Because this type of denture relies on the bone to hold them in place, people often experience loosening of their dentures and problems eating and speaking. Eventually, bone loss may become so severe that dentures cannot be held in place even with strong adhesives, and a new set may be required. Proper denture care, repair, and refitting are essential to maintaining oral health. With bridgework, the teeth on either side of the appliance are crowns where the teeth are missing; and the bone receives no direct stimulation. Bone loss can occur in these areas.
When a tooth is knocked out or broken to the extent that no biting surface is left below the gum line, bone stimulation stops, which results in bone loss. Some common forms of tooth and jaw trauma include: teeth knocked out from injury or accident, jaw fractures, or teeth with a history of trauma that may die and lead to bone loss years after the initial trauma.
Misalignment issues can create a situation in the mouth where some teeth no longer have an opposing tooth structure. The unopposed tooth can over-erupt, causing deterioration of the underlying bone.
Issues such as TMJ problems, normal wear-and-tear, and lack of treatment can also create abnormal physical forces that interfere with the teeths ability to grind and chew properly. Over time, bone deterioration can occur where bone is losing stimulation.
Benign facial tumors, though generally non-threatening, may grow large and require removal of a portion of the jaw. Malignant mouth tumors can spread into the jaw, requiring removal of a section of the jaw. In both cases, reconstructive bone grafting is usually required to help restore function to the jaw.
Some conditions or syndromes known as birth defects are characterized by missing portions of the teeth, facial bones, jaw or skull. Drs. Thomas, Hackenberger, Kraemer, Orzech, Osguthorpe and Aravindaksha may be able to perform a bone graft procedure to restore bone function and growth where it may be absent.
When teeth are removed from the upper jaw, the sinuses become enlarged, a condition called hyperpneumatized sinus.
This condition usually develops over several years, and may result in insufficient bone for the placement of dental implants. Drs. Thomas, Hackenberger, Kraemer, Orzech, Osguthorpe and Aravinsaksha can perform a procedure called a sinus lift that can treat enlarged sinuses.