Have you ever seen someone with missing teeth? Did you notice the way their face looks slightly sunken in, almost as if they’re constantly sucking on a lemon? That person was almost certainly dealing with bone loss.
Bone loss can happen to anyone — it’s not only associated with age. Bone loss can stem from many causes, including improper oral care and other lifestyle factors. Keep reading to learn more about the symptoms associated with bone loss, what can be done to prevent it, and treatment options.
What is dental bone loss?
Maintaining healthy teeth is an important part of sustaining our overall long-term health. Our natural teeth work to stimulate bone growth and preserve bone through chewing and biting. When you’re missing a tooth, the bone no longer gets this stimulation, causing the bone to disintegrate, a process known as resorption.
Advanced gum disease can also eat away at your jawbone, causing bone loss and ultimately leading to tooth loss. Once you’ve lost a tooth, additional bone and tooth loss are likely.
What causes bone loss around teeth?
Bone loss is quite common, and is usually a result of either missing teeth or advanced periodontitis (or peri-implantitis).
Missing teeth are common — an estimated 20% of adults are missing at least one tooth) — and they can significantly contribute to bone loss. In the first year after losing a tooth, 25% of the surrounding bone is lost and it will continue to wear away over time.
In the case of periodontitis or peri-implantitis, the bacteria in your mouth will gradually eat away at your underlying jawbone that connects the tooth (or implant) to the bone.
Bone loss can also be caused by misaligned teeth that prevent normal chewing, causing a loss of stimulus to the bone.
Symptoms of bone loss
- Changes in your bite and facial structure. If you wear dentures, bone loss can cause changes in the overall fit and comfort (i.e. they can feel loose or fit differently).
- Discomfort when you chew
- Shifting or loosening of your teeth
- Shrinking gums
- Lips beginning to sink inward
- Headaches, facial pain, and jaw pain
- Increased difficulty speaking
- Loose teeth
- New gaps between your teeth
- Bad breath
- Pain when chewing
Why is dental bone loss so problematic?
If you’re impacted by bone loss, you may also experience the following:
- Difficulty eating and speaking
- Premature wrinkling around your mouth and a thinning of your lips, making you appear older
- Loss of confidence
- Pain and discomfort
Can you reverse bone loss in the jaw?
We always recommend preventing bone loss in the first place. Here’s how:
- Replace missing teeth as soon as you lose them.
- Practice good everyday oral hygiene habits.
- Stay up to date with your routine dental cleanings and exams.
- Follow all your dentist-recommended treatment or prevention plans.
If you are already suffering from bone loss, thankfully treatment options do exist and are very successful.
Treating bone loss
Effective treatments for bone loss in the jaw include the following:
Guided Bone Regeneration
This treatment rebuilds the bone that’s been lost, creating an adequate, strong, and stable foundation to replace a missing tooth. Learn more.
This approach builds up the foundation around your teeth to maintain their health. Learn more.
Replacing missing teeth with an implant
Once your bone is strong enough to support an implant, we highly recommend replacing any missing teeth. This will help support your jaw bone and prevent any additional tooth loss in neighboring teeth.
Our team can help
As a periodontal office, we help our patients ensure a healthy smile through a foundation of healthy bone and gums. With over 3 years of specialized training in bone, gum, and supporting tissue, Dr. Pumphrey is uniquely suited to help you achieve lifelong dental health.
Whether you’re already suffering from bone loss or are concerned about developing the problem in the future due to missing teeth or gum disease, we’re here to help. Talk to our team today and evaluate your risk of dental bone loss.
If bone loss is occurring, it’s important to stop it from progressing and make a plan for rebuilding what was lost. At our offices, we may recommend a bone loss treatment when:
- Existing teeth or implants are at risk
- Your jaw bone is too unstable to support an implant or other restorative treatment
We’ll review your situation and determine the best treatment option.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment — no referral needed!