Bone loss is typically the result of one of two things: chronic periodontitis and the loss of a tooth or multiple teeth. When gum disease is contracted, the infection travels further into the periodontal ligament and eventually the underlying jawbone. In the case of a missing tooth due to trauma or tooth decay, bone loss occurs because of a lack of stimulation from the tooth and tooth roots. This begins a process called resorption where bone tissue is lost because it is no longer needed. In this blog, we’re going to take a look at bone loss in the jaw, how it works, and how it can be solved.
What Is It?
Bone loss is something that occurs in the bone that supports the teeth. This bone is known as the alveolar bone which makes up the ridges on which the teeth are embedded. Many people are under the impression that partial or full dentures will help alleviate this issue, but it doesn’t. Unfortunately, dentures only exert a small amount of chewing force — around 10 percent as much according to some sources.
Another thing that can cause resorption is the removal of the molars in the upper jaw. This can cause the sinus cavity to expand. Since the sinus cavity pressure changes, this can contribute to bone loss in the jaw. Several other causes of bone loss include tumors that grow in the face, infection that inhibits the growth of new bone tissue, and by a misaligned jaw or teeth which can affect the way you bite.
By wearing away at the ridges of bone, dentures can actually accelerate the rate of bone loss. This is often the reason that many people who wear dentures experience discomfort, sore spots, or difficulty chewing. Although dentures are essentially restoring the crowns of the teeth, this doesn’t mean that the jaw structure will be preserved. Although initially, the jaw will look pretty much the same, over time, the chin will begin to come up closer to the nose and jut out. This new look is almost never favorable and is one of the top reasons people who wear dentures end up getting dental implants instead.
Although bone density may seem like the same thing as bone loss, it’s not quite the same. Bone density loss means for a bone to become more porous. This is much less common than bone loss in the jaw and can result from tooth loss as well, lifestyle choices, disease, and hormonal imbalance.
3D cone beam CT scanners can be used to take 3D images of the jaw and look for any changes in bone density. If the bone in the X-ray is white-colored, it means that it’s dense. These areas of low density can either be avoided when doing dental implants or use techniques that increase the bone density in that area.
Bone grafting is the process that your oral health specialist will use to restore bone to the jaw and prepare it for placement of dental implants. Bone grafting isn’t always needed, but for some patients, it will be needed to ensure that the dental implants will be able to integrate into the bone correctly. Your dentist or periodontist will always look for the most minimally invasive way to do this, but it usually involves taking bone from another part of the body and applying it to the affected area allowing it to grow back gradually. This often takes up to several months for the bone to fully recover.
Another thing to prepare the jaw for dental implants is a sinus lift. When teeth on the upper jaw in the back are removed, the ridge bone begins to resorb resulting in a very thin piece of bone between the roots of the teeth and the sinus. A sinus lift procedure is done by lifting up the sinus slightly and inserting bone material into the space and allowing it to grow. Similar to bone grafting, this will take several months to finish healing before dental implants can be applied.
Fortunately, bone grafting and sinus lifts aren’t always needed for dental implants and it depends entirely on your oral health history and how much bone has been lost along the ridge or near the sinuses. Your periodontist will work closely with you and ensure that you understand what needs to be done before dental implants can be placed.
It’s never easy to make decisions about your oral health, that’s why at Same Day Implants, we aim to provide you with as much information as possible about your oral health and lay out all of your options so that you can make the best decisions possible for your long-term oral health.