Jawbone loss begins with lack of support for a tooth in the socket and, in some cases, the presence of infection and inflammation. The tissue begins to deteriorate in this area, before being reabsorbed by the body. In response, you may experience difficulty chewing and biting or notice the shape of your face has changed.
Especially if you lost a tooth months ago and it has not been fixed or you have a nagging toothache, understand how jawbone loss can occur.
What Is Jawbone Loss?
Your teeth stimulate the jawbone and give it a sense of purpose. When you lose a tooth, your body notices the empty socket and signals that bone tissue is no longer needed in this area. As a result, the bone begins to disintegrate and get reabsorbed by the body.
The pace of jawbone loss is not the same for everyone and may be gradual. If you’ve lost a tooth or had one extracted but never received an implant, bone loss may start anywhere from four to 18 months from the time the tooth was removed until the issue is addressed. Infections can also accelerate this process.
With time, you’ll find that your bite strength is not uniform and your face may look asymmetrical or have a sunken-in appearance. This latter condition can lead to facial collapse, causing the mouth to sink into the face and the chin to protrude.
Beyond a change in appearance, the absence of a tooth and atrophying jawbone can cause the rest of your teeth in your mouth to shift. You may start to experience:
- Jaw and facial pain
- Sinus issues
- Difficulty eating
- Challenges speaking
You’ll also notice that you cannot eat certain foods, which can start to impact your nutrition. Your dentist might say that you don’t have enough jawbone tissue to support a crown or an implant, which poses a challenge for addressing the concern.
Causes of Jawbone Loss
Jawbone loss tends to occur as the result of at least one of the following factors.
Missing or Extracted Teeth
Without a tooth in its socket, the alveolar bone receives no stimulation or minerals like calcium. This sets off a chain reaction that results in jawbone deterioration, which may affect neighboring teeth and your ability to chew.
Poorly aligned teeth place abnormal amounts of stress on your jawbone and result in some areas being under-stimulated. This aspect often occurs in conjunction with teeth griding, visible wear, crooked teeth and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder.
Your gums can get inflamed from repeat exposure to bacteria via plaque deposits on your teeth. With time, the bacteria progress, including below the gumline and even to your bloodstream, and can affect both your teeth and jawbone.
Uncontrolled infection may result in one or more lost teeth, gum recession and damage to the ligaments in your mouth, as well as accelerated jawbone loss.
The early stages of periodontal disease, known as gingivitis, are reversible but periodontitis, which unfolds as the condition advances, requires more invasive treatment and increases your risks for jawbone loss.
You may be dealing with periodontal disease if your mouth has red, inflamed, swollen or bleeding gums. Patients often develop this condition as a result of negligent dental care.
Trauma and Damage
A sudden injury to your mouth can result in a cracked or knocked-out tooth, as well as trauma to your jaw. This combination can halt the stimulation your jawbone receives and result in a fracture, causing bone tissue to die.
In this case, jawbone loss might start occurring within months of the incident or years down the road and can stem from a one-time accident or repeat trauma to the area.
You may develop jawbone atrophy in response to:
- Osteoporosis, a condition characterized by thin, brittle and fragile bones that’s often worsened by infection.
- Osteomyelitis, an infection of the bone marrow that affects how much oxygen-rich blood your jawbone receives.
- Tumors, which can spread through the jaw and affect tissue growth.
- Congenital deformities of the teeth, jaw, facial bones or skull.
- Enlarged sinuses, which can cause your body to reabsorb some of the jawbone.
Implants and crowns can both help stimulate the jawbone. However, restorations like bridges and dentures don’t penetrate the jawbone or restore existing teeth, a factor that can increase risks for jawbone loss. In the case of dentures, the restoration may gradually wear away and irritate the gum tissue, which can contribute to or aggravate jawbone loss.
Treatment for Jawbone Loss
For jawbone loss, dentists often recommend bone grafting. Following this procedure, your body begins to absorb the material and will replace it with new tissue, which helps improve the strength and integrity of your jaw.
Grafting material can come from a donor, your own body or be a synthetic source. Patients may then receive dental implants to stimulate the jawbone where tooth loss has occurred.
Are you interested in learning more about bone grafting and dental implants? To schedule an appointment, contact our Shelton, CT office today.