Is Dental Bone Loss Serious?
As we age, many parts of our bodies begin to experience various degrees of decline and even loss of function. Particularly around middle age, many find that their bodies simply don’t work the way they used to, and that much of what they have taken for granted for decades becomes more cumbersome to simply maintain. Unfortunately, what is true of our muscles and joints is also true of our bones, and this includes our teeth and jaws.
Though common, dental bone loss is a serious issue that is worth taking steps to avoid. While there are ways of addressing bone loss once it has started and progressed, the solutions are neither complete nor easily undertaken. For that reason, preventing bone loss in the jaw is the best course of action; the following article will outline some of the primary causes of dental bone loss and how to take steps to preserve healthy bone mass in the face of these challenges.
The primary culprit when it comes to dental bone loss is advanced gum disease. A progressive, three stage dental disease, the first stage of gum disease, called gingivitis, begins as a slowly developing infection of the soft tissues of the gums by bacteria present in the plaque that has formed on the teeth. Some accumulation of plaque and tartar is completely normal; this is one of the main reasons that it is so important to be seen not only by your dentist every 6 months but – perhaps more importantly – by your dental hygienist, whose biannual tooth cleanings are designed to remove and plaque that has built up over the past months.
When this detritus is not removed, the bacteria inside of it begins to leach into the gums, where it then multiplies and spreads. If gingivitis is not reversed by a thorough cleaning and recommitment to good daily oral hygiene practices, it can then turn into the more advanced forms of gum disease, which are not reversible. This is the point at which bone health becomes compromised. So, to protect your dental bone health, take good care of your teeth and gums!
Not Replacing Missing Teeth
Another cause of declining bone mass in the jaw is the failure to replace teeth that have gone missing. Whether teeth are missing due to extractions, injury, or disease, their absence is strongly felt in the jawbone, where it is the stimulation provided by the mechanical motions undertaken by these teeth that keep the bone mass healthy. When that part of the jaw no longer feels the impact of daily biting and chewing, it understands that it is no longer necessary and stops maintaining itself at previous levels (much like under-utilized muscles that become small and slack as they are not used as regularly). For this reason, replacing missing teeth is another meaningful step you can take to boost dental bone health.
Sub-optimal Modes of Tooth Replacement
All forms of tooth replacement are not created equal, however. While conventional dentures and bridges can provide the appearance and some basic function of missing teeth, the fact that thy rest on top of the surface of the gums rather than extending into the jawbone means that the stimulation that the jaw needs to stay healthy is no longer present; for this reason, dental implants are the recommended form of tooth replacement to preserve healthy bone mass in the jaw. In contrast to the superficial replacement that conventional dentures and bridges offer, dental implants are anchored into the jaw itself, where the impact of all the mechanical motions of chewing and eating are channeled. This preserves the organic connection between teeth and jaw, making for stronger teeth and a healthier jawbone.