What happens when we lose a tooth? How can we prevent the bone loss that comes with missing teeth, and why is it important? Dr. Mazhari discusses just how significant our jaw bone integrity is to our health.
Everything I do as a dentist revolves around prevention. Preventing oral disease and protecting the teeth have benefits that last a lifetime. I’ve seen older patients in their 70s and 80s still have strong bone supporting good teeth.
However, plaque and sugars attack the mouth all day long. If we do nothing to prevent this, oral disease can set in. If a tooth is lost or needs to be extracted as the result of tooth decay and gum disease, the bone where the tooth roots used to be literally disappears.
In the first year of tooth loss alone, 30 to 40 percent of the jaw bone where that tooth used to be disappears.
After this, the bone loss is much more gradual, but you still don’t want to wait to replace a missing tooth for years. If you wait 10 years to replace a missing tooth, you may not have the bone necessary to replace it with a dental implant.
You’ll still have the option of bone grafting to build up your jaw bone enough to successfully place an implant. Bone grafting is a common procedure and works well, but doing the implant a few months rather than a few years after extracting a tooth can help the bone naturally retain its thickness and height to support a dental implant.
Your entire facial structure can change even with a single missing tooth. A lot of our facial structure and the way we look is reliant on our upper and lower jaw bones.
For patients who wear a full set of dentures, their entire face appears collapsed or sunken in upon removing the dentures. This effect is even apparent on people who are missing just one tooth.
For example, I had a patient who needed to have a single molar removed on one side. The patient noticed that one side of her face looked more sunken, and the difference was apparent. We ended up replacing the tooth with a dental implant to restore her tooth and her appearance.
By keeping our teeth, not only are we maintaining jaw bone and our facial structure, but we’re also preventing tissue collapse that can affect our risk for sleep apnea. Our teeth support the initial area where our airway begins—our mouth—and collapsed tissue as the result of missing teeth can influence the onset of sleep apnea, where the airway collapses during sleep to obstruct breathing.
Why not prevent muscle and bone atrophy to prevent problems later in life? By maintaining our teeth for as many years as we can, we can age much more gracefully and protect both our oral and bodily health.