What is dental bone loss?
Dental bone loss refers to the loss of jawbone mass in the area around a tooth or in the tooth root. As we age, it is normal for our jawbone density to decrease. Dental bone loss can also be a consequence of osteoporosis, a common post-menopausal symptom in women. Dental bone loss is a condition that requires immediate attention and proper dental care as it can lead to more serious problems if left untreated. At the Hampton Dental Associates we advocate good oral health, not only focusing on the teeth, but also proper gum and jawbone health.
What are the common reasons for dental bone loss?
A healthy jawbone structure is essential to good oral health. If the jawbone condition is compromised, your teeth lose their support and can loosen or fall out, even without any other signs of damage or decay. Many factors can contribute to dental bone loss; understanding them will help you take preventive measures.
- Tooth extractions
- The amount of jawbone mass is maintained by the presence of the teeth that are embedded in it. The constant force applied by the teeth on the jawbone when you chew and bite stimulates the bone, which helps maintain its integrity. When a tooth is removed and is not replaced by an artificial tooth, the jawbone will no longer receive the stimulation in that area. Bone resorption occurs and the bone is slowly broken down.
- Periodontal (gum) disease
- Bacteria present in the plaque that forms on the surface of the teeth can cause gingivitis, where the gums swell, become red, and bleed. If the condition becomes more serious gingivitis progresses to periodontis, where the plaque extends beyond the gum line and the gum tissue becomes irritated. As inflammation intensifies, separation between the gums and the teeth can create pockets that easily trap bacteria and become more infected. Chronic inflammation of the gum tissue will cause the bones supporting the teeth to break down. Over time the teeth in the affected areas will start to loosen and fall out. Periodontal disease is usually a result of poor oral hygiene and can be prevented with regular cleanings by your dentist, along with good oral hygiene practices at home.
- Bridges and dentures
- Dental bridges and dentures are common treatments to replace some or all of a person’s missing teeth. Both are very effective in restoring the natural function of teeth while providing very natural-looking results. Often bridges and dentures are unanchored, however, leaving a gap between the appliance and the jawbone. The jawbone no longer receives the stimulation it needs to maintain its integrity resulting in bone loss. In dentures especially, the lack of bone stimulation causes the jawbone mass to decrease continually, requiring regular refitting of the unsupported dentures.
- Dental implants can be used with bridges and dentures to make these appliances more permanent. Those implants, because they are implanted into the jawbone, act like normal teeth, creating force against the jawbone when chewing and biting, maintaining bone mass.
- Tooth trauma can lead to bone loss. If a tooth is broken off, the biting surface is removed and the jawbone is no longer stimulated in the site of that tooth. In addition to teeth being knocked out or broken, we also come across cases where a patient’s jawbone has been fractured and has failed to heal, again causing trauma and bone loss.
- Issues with alignment
- Even misaligned teeth can result in decreasing jawbone mass. Misaligned teeth create problems with chewing and biting and over time this will cause the bone to deteriorate. Proper orthodontic treatment, however, can restore a normal bite and recreate proper bone stimulation.
- The removal of benign and malignant tumors in the area near the jaw often requires an entire portion of the jawbone to be grafted.