Missing Teeth & Your Jaw Bone
Bone needs stimulation to maintain its form and density. For the jawbone, teeth provide that simulation. Your teeth make brief contact with each other hundreds of times a day. These contacts produce small stresses on the teeth that are transmitted to the bone. This triggers it to continuously regenerate.
If you lose a tooth, the stimulation it provided for the surrounding bone vanishes, and this can lead to bone loss. A single missing tooth is often the first sign of bone density being lost. The bone in this area begins to shrink without the reinforcing presence provided by the tooth.
As teeth continue to break down and fall out, this sets off a destructive cycle and bone density is further reduced.
When bone keeps deteriorating and enough teeth are lost, the distance from nose to chin begins to decrease in a condition we refer to as facial collapse. The lips lack structural support and begin to sag. This is why people with missing teeth can appear either unhappy or much older than they really are. Bone loss that occurs over time can also leave you more susceptible to erosion and jaw fractures, which impacts your ability to chew and speak.
Along with jaw bone deterioration, the remaining teeth will begin to shift into the gaps left by the missing tooth. This, in turn, can cause additional issues with bite and even jaw joint (TMJ) pain.
How Dental Implants Help
Dental implants are tooth replacements that are designed in part to prevent all this. For starters, dental implants can help to restore the function and aesthetics of your smile, allowing you to eat, chew and speak effectively while maintaining the appearance of strong, healthy teeth.
In addition, dental implants can actually prevent bone loss. This is because they are made of titanium, which 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 during an in-office surgical procedure using a local anesthetic. Then, either right away or after a healing period, they are topped with dental crowns. Together, these components look, feel and function almost exactly as a natural tooth would.
Since implants work much like natural teeth, they will exert the same amount of pressure against the jaw bone, which keeps it functional and healthy.
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.
Ask 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.