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How Gaps in Your Smile Can Lead to Bone Loss in the Jaw

If you need to have a tooth extracted, you might wonder whether it wouldn’t be better just to leave the space empty. After all, dental implants can be costly! Surely you can live with a gap in your smile as long as you take extra good care of your remaining teeth and gums, right? Unfortunately, the consequences for that decision might be greater than you think. Here’s how missing teeth lead to bone loss – and how dental implants might be the solution.

What Happens When a Tooth is Gone?

Like muscles, your jaw stays strong through regular use. When you have a full set of natural teeth, the jawbone receives stimulation through activities such as chewing or biting; this stimulation tells the body to send calcium and other nutrients to the jaw in order to encourage growth.

When teeth are missing, the stimulation is lost, and the body no longer provides nutrients to the apparently unneeded area. Eventually that section of the jawbone will begin to deteriorate.

What Happens if Bone Loss in the Jaw Isn’t Addressed?

A jaw affected by bone loss can cause problems with your remaining teeth, such as misalignment and drifting; it may even result in further tooth loss.

Additionally, the jaw plays an important role in maintaining facial structure. When it starts to deteriorate, it could cause your facial profile to collapse. The skin around the mouth will begin to wrinkle, and other facial features will be affected.

Other consequences can include jaw pain, headaches, difficulty speaking, and an inability to eat properly and the resulting lack of nutrition.

How Can Dental Implants Prevent Bone Loss?

Most forms of tooth replacement, such as traditional dentures and dental bridges, can help restore speaking and chewing functions but won’t have any effect on bone loss. Dental implants, however, can be an effective way to replace teeth while also promoting good jawbone health.

An implant is a metal post used to support a crown or another form of prosthetic teeth. The biocompatible post is surgically placed in the jaw; once there, the bone will gradually grow around the implant and secure it via a process known as osseointegration.

When an implant is joined with the jaw this way, it can mimic the stimulation of chewing normally provided by natural teeth, thus preventing bone loss. This is one of many reasons why dental implants are often recommended; other advantages include good chewing power and a long lifespan in comparison with other options.

Note that a certain amount of height is needed for osseointegration to take place, so an implant procedure could become complicated if extensive bone loss has already occurred; in some cases, bone grafts can be used to prepare the jaw and increase the chances of success. If you lose a tooth or expect to lose a tooth in the near future, speak with your dentist as soon as possible to decide the best course of treatment.

About the Author

Dr. Christopher Pollard graduated from Texas A&M in 1984 and got his DDS from Baylor College of Dentistry in 1988. He enjoys the fact that dentistry combines science with helping others. He offers dental implants and other restorative options for patients with missing teeth. To schedule an appointment at his practice in Plano, Dental Renaissance, visit their website or call (972) 954-2643.

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