Your Jaw Bone & Missing Teeth
To maintain its density and form, bone needs stimulation. For the jawbone, that stimulation comes from the teeth. Your teeth make hundreds of brief contacts with each other every day. These contacts produce small stresses on the teeth, which are transmitted to the bone. This prompts it to continuously regenerate.
When you lose a tooth, the stimulation it provided for the surrounding bone disappears, and this can result in bone loss. A single missing tooth is often the first sign of bone density being lost. Without the reinforcing presence the tooth provides, the bone in this area starts to shrink.
Bone density is further reduced as teeth keep breaking down and falling out, setting off a destructive cycle.
When enough teeth are lost and the bone continues to deteriorate, the distance from the nose to the chin will start to decrease in a condition known as facial collapse. Lacking structural support, the lips sag. This is why people with missing teeth can appear unhappy or much older than they really are. Over time, bone loss can also make you more susceptible to jaw fractures and erosion, impacting your ability to speak and chew.
In combination with jaw bone deterioration, the teeth that are still there will begin to shift into the gaps left behind by the teeth that are missing. As a result, this could cause more bite problems and possibly jaw joint (TMJ) pain.
How Can Dental Implants Help Me?
One of the reasons why dental implants (tooth replacements) were made is to prevent this from happening. Dental implants could help restore the aesthetics and function of your smile, this lets you speak, eat, and chew effectively while giving the appearance of strong and healthy teeth.
Dental implants can also help prevent bone loss. Because they are made from titanium, they can fuse to living bone. When dental implants are surgically implanted into the jaw, they become a permanent part of it, stimulating and stabilizing the bone to help it maintain its volume and density.
Dental implants are placed in your dentist's office during a surgical procedure using a local anesthetic. Then, they are topped with dental crowns either immediately or after a period of healing. When these components are combined they look, function, and feel very similar to a natural tooth.
Because dental implants function like natural teeth, they will exert the same level of pressure against the jaw bone, keeping it healthy and functional.
With regular brushing, flossing, and professional cleanings — the same maintenance and care that natural teeth require — your dental implants will be permanent and can last for many years, and possibly even for life.
Asking Your Dentist for Recommendations
When it comes to jaw bone density, time plays an important role. It's critical that gaps left by missing teeth are filled as soon as possible since the longer a patient waits, the more bone density will be lost, making it more difficult to insert a dental implant to reinforce the jaw bone.
Your dentist is an important resource when it comes to oral health and can make appropriate recommendations regarding whether you need a tooth replacement, and which one is right for you.