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What Causes Jawbone Loss?

By Bruce Wilderman on May 13, 2017

An illustration of jawbone lossCertain dental and oral health problems can lead to jawbone loss, which in turn can alter a person's facial appearance and lead to tooth loss. Restorative dentistry treatments are available to prevent jawbone loss as well as restore the oral health and appearance of those who have been affected by this oral health issue. Although treatment is available, preventing jawbone loss is best for oral health. Let's explore the causes of jawbone loss and how to prevent it in this overview from Philadelphia, PA dentist Bruce Wilderman.

Periodontal Disease

Periodontal disease is an infection of the gum tissue that may spread to the jawbone if left untreated. Most periodontal disease develops as a result of the bacteria found in plaque. Dental bacteria release toxins, which irritate the gums, causing swelling and bleeding. Over time, as bacteria continue to irritate the gums and plaque continues to collect at the gum line, the gums may pull away from the teeth and form pockets.

Once pockets form, plaque, tartar, and food debris will continue to collect, pulling the gums further away from the teeth and eventually allowing bacteria to reach the jawbone and infect the bone tissue. With prolonged infection, the jawbone may begin to deteriorate and cause the teeth to loosen or fall out.

Tooth Loss or Extraction

The teeth stimulate the jawbone through the action of chewing and biting. When a tooth is lost, whether through injury or extraction, the jawbone surrounding the missing tooth, an area called the alveolar bone, is no longer stimulated. Over time, this lack of stimulation will cause the alveolar bone to deteriorate.

Dentures

Traditional removable dentures can lead to a loss of jawbone from a lack of alveolar bone stimulation. This is because removable dentures sit on top of the gums and are not able to provide direct stimulation to the underlying jawbone. The longer removable dentures are worn, the more absorption and deterioration of the jawbone will occur.

Traditional Bridges

Traditional dental bridges provide enough stimulation at the points of attachment but the gap between attachment points, where one or more teeth are missing, does not get direct stimulation. This can lead to jawbone loss and deterioration.

Misaligned Teeth

With some alignment issues, the upper and lower teeth may not come into contact when biting and chewing. Areas of the jaw not exposed to the regular forces produced through biting and chewing may begin to atrophy.

Osteomyelitis

Osteomyelitis is a bacterial infection affecting the jawbone that can cause inflammation and reduced blood flow to the bone tissues of the jaw. If left untreated, the infection may spread and cause severe bone loss.

Facial or Mouth Tumors

Jawbone loss may be lost as a result of surgical removal, which may be necessary when facial or mouth tumors are present. Benign facial tumors and malignant mouth tumors commonly spread to the jaw. In order to completely remove either form of tumor, affected portions of the jaw must also be removed.

Preventing Jawbone Loss

Jawbone loss caused by dental issues is often preventable. Jawbone loss caused by misaligned teeth may be prevented through orthodontic treatment. Orthodontic treatment repositions the teeth so that they evenly align, helping to ensure that biting forces are correctly distributed and the jawbone is sufficiently stimulated.

Jawbone loss caused by missing teeth may be prevented with dental implant treatment. Dental implants are small metal posts that are surgically placed into the jawbone, mimicking the natural tooth root. Different types of dental restorations may be attached to dental implants, such as dental crowns, implant-supported bridges, and implant-supported dentures to replace one or more missing teeth. Because dental implants act as artificial roots that are in direct contact with the jawbone, they help to stimulate the tissue of the jawbone and prevent deterioration.

Learn More about Your Treatment Options

For more information about jawbone loss or to discover your treatment options, please schedule a consultation with Dr. Wilderman.

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