What Causes Bone Loss?
As we age, bone loss becomes something that we have to take greater care to prevent. Bone loss can happen all throughout the body as a result of reduced weight-bearing activities, a decline in overall health, and osteoporosis. Similarly, dental bone loss can take place due to multiple factors, including gum disease, tooth loss, and even misalignment of otherwise healthy teeth.
Gum Disease and Bone Loss
It may come as a surprise that a disease of the gums can threaten the health of bone tissue in the jaw, but bone loss is indeed one of the unfortunately results of the complications of advanced gum disease. A three-stage disease, gum disease begins with a simple infection of the gums caused by built-up plaque and tartar on the teeth; this movement of bacteria from the dental detritus present on the teeth to the soft tissues of the gums is called gingivitis. At this stage, gum disease can still be reversed – all it takes is removal of the offending plaque.
Once gum disease has progressed on to periodontitis and advanced periodontitis, however, gum disease can only be managed, not cured or reversed. In these stages, the infection of the gums begins to damage the ligaments that hold one’s teeth in place and then finally eat away at the jawbone itself; at this point, teeth are in jeopardy of being lost, which only speeds up the process of dental bone loss.
Connections Between Tooth and Bone Loss
There is a natural symbiosis maintained by the teeth and jaw; while the jawbone supports one’s teeth and absorbs the tremendous impact of biting and chewing, which generates far more force than one might imagine, the teeth – connected by dental roots that extend down into the jaw – also preserve healthy bone mass by providing necessary stimulation to the hard tissue of the jaw.
Much like bones are strengthened not only by vitamins like calcium but also by regular weight-bearing exercise, your jawbone is continually strengthened and maintained by the simple repeated action of biting and chewing; as the force of those actions travels through your dental roots into the jaw, those tissues receive the message that they need to stay strong. When teeth are lost for whatever reason, those messages between the teeth and jaw are effectively cut off, and the jaw is no longer told to stay strong, so it begins to shrink and become weaker. Just as your body needs exercise to stay strong, your jaw needs feedback from your teeth to maintain itself.
Misaligned Teeth and Bone Loss
Due to this deep connection between teeth and your jaw, misaligned teeth can also threaten the health of dental bone. As teeth become misaligned due to injury or simple movement, the lack of pressure travelling through the teeth to the jaw can cause that part of the jaw to weaken and even shrink over time. For this reason, it is very important not only to replace missing teeth, but also to address misalignment if it arises.