Bone loss following tooth extraction is a serious concern and needs to be considered if you are in need of extraction of one or more of your teeth. It’s no secret, consider how a child would imitate someone who is missing several teeth. The child will suck their lips in to mimic the “sunken” appearance that happens when the jawbone has diminished.
Why does this happen? Why does it matter? And what can we do about it? These are important questions to ask if you are planning an extraction surgery so that you can discuss the issue with your oral surgeon and plan for the future to avoid the consequences of bone loss. The oral surgeons at Southwest Oral Surgery, in Glendale, AZ are concerned for both your dental and overall health and will take the time to discuss all of these issues with you prior to extraction and create a customized treatment plan to meet your unique needs.
A special relationship exists between your jawbone and your teeth. As important as your teeth are to your appearance and your ability to chew food and speak properly, they also serve another purpose that you may not realize. The roots of your teeth are constantly stimulating your jaw bone to maintain itself. Once a tooth is lost, this relationship ends, and the surrounding bone begins to deteriorate and shrink in a process called atrophy. This is a similar process to the atrophy that is experience when muscles are not used or stimulated.
Even the loss of a single tooth matters because it sets off a chain reaction that eventually affects the entire mouth. As the bone beneath the missing tooth loses density, its shape starts to change, causing the adjacent teeth to become loose and begin to tip or shift. Eventually you are likely to lose another tooth, increasing the area of bone loss and moving the process along.
The more teeth that are missing, the faster bone loss occurs. As your jawbone shrinks, your facial appearance changes. You don’t just lose bone in the area where your teeth are located, either. The density of your entire jawbone changes, which changes the relationship of the jaws and can cause bone loss along the back of your jaw, near where it connects with your skull (the temporomandibular joint), leading to pain and dysfunction in this joint.
As the jaw bone shrinks, the periodontal soft tissue (the gums) also begins to atrophy and decrease. As this tissue becomes thinner, nerves may be exposed (through the bone, under the gums), causing pain. The thinner gum tissue is also more prone to sores and periodontal disease, a condition that recent studies have connected to serious overall health conditions such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
If you need to have a tooth extracted speak to your oral surgeon about replacement with dental implants. Other tooth replacement options such as bridges, partials, and dentures can improve the appearance of your teeth but do not stop bone loss since they are designed to sit above the gumline. According to the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, bridges have a detrimental effect on the adjacent teeth because they require the alteration of otherwise healthy teeth.
Removable dentures and partials do nothing to stop bone loss. The pressure, which is applied to the gum tissue and the surface of the bone when wearing dentures is entirely different than the internal stimulation of the bone by the tooth roots. This surface pressure applied to the bone under dentures actually causes the bone to atrophy at a faster rate, making the problem worse. As time goes by the dentures become loose and can become quite uncomfortable to wear, especially as the bone atrophies and the gum tissue becomes thinner. Partial dentures have a similar effect on the bone in areas with no teeth and will eventually cause loosening and loss of the nearby teeth that they attach to as well.
Dental implants, on the other hand, are anchored directly into the jawbone and actually become a part of the bone through a process called osseointegration. This allows them to function just like the root that was lost in the extraction. The dental implant stimulates the bone internally. This restores the previous tooth/bone relationship, and the jawbone continues to maintain its integrity.
To learn more about bone loss after tooth extraction and how it can be avoided, please call Southwest Oral Surgery in Glendale, AZ to schedule a consultation.