Whether you plan to undergo dental implant surgery in the future or you simply want to maintain a strong, healthy set of natural teeth for as long as possible, you need healthy bone in both your upper jaw and your lower jaw. However, certain conditions and circumstances can threaten that jawbone’s health.
Fortunately, once you understand the factors involved, you and your dentist can work together to keep both your teeth and their supporting bone tissue in good shape. Take a look at the following key considerations about bone loss and your dental health.
How Your Jawbone and Teeth Support Each Other
Your teeth and the bones of your jaw share an interactive relationship, with each component supporting the health of the other. Healthy teeth that are held in place by strong ligaments stimulate the jawbone to repair and replenish itself. Meanwhile, a healthy base of bone maintains the sockets surrounding the tooth roots.
For this reason, problems that threaten your teeth may also threaten your jawbone and vice versa. Thin or weak bone in your jaw can contribute to tooth loss. Without the constant stimulation provided by tooth roots, the bone tissue grows thinner and weaker, potentially setting up an ongoing cycle of dental problems.
Why Bone Loss Occurs
Bone remodels itself as new bone cells replace old ones. Whenever the pace of deterioration outstrips the regrowth process, you end up with bone loss. Underlying conditions can accelerate this process. For instance, women with osteoporosis have three times the tooth loss risk of those who don’t have this bone-weakening problem.
Periodontal disease, a common inflammation of the gums, can lead to tooth loss (and thus bone loss). The loss of teeth due to extractions or injuries can also deprive the jawbone of its usual regrowth triggers. Bite abnormalities that place uneven pressures on your teeth may allow some parts of the jawbone to lose density.
Don’t assume that the replacement of lost teeth with dentures or bridgework will stop this kind of bone loss. These appliances may help you talk and chew, but they merely sit on the jaw instead of extending into the jawbone. Since they can’t stimulate the jaw to generate new bone cells, the bone loss may only grow worse.
How Bone Loss Can Complicate Dental Implants
If you have lost one or more teeth and want to prevent that loss from encouraging bone loss as well, dental implants can succeed at that goal where other dental restorations fail. A dental implant features a post that is surgically implanted in the jawbone. This post stimulates bone maintenance just as a natural tooth root would.
Unfortunately, dental implants require a certain amount of healthy bone in which to anchor themselves, with new bone tissue growing around the threaded posts to secure them in place. If you have already lost a lot of bone height or density, you may need to address that situation before you can proceed with your implants.
How Dentists Respond to Bone Loss
Your dentist can see signs of bone loss in the X-rays commonly taken during routine dental exams. A dentist who notices a loss of bone height or density will look for any obvious causes that require treatment. For instance, you might need root planing and scaling to remove tartar if you suffer from periodontal disease.
Bone loss caused or encouraged by malocclusion (abnormal bite alignment) may signal the need to get that malocclusion treated. Your dentist may correct a minor misalignment with bonding, crowns, or other restorative techniques. If you need to have your teeth straightened or shifted, you’ll receive a referral to an orthodontist.
Bone grafts can provide your jawbone with welcome enhancement. You may need this procedure to build up your jawbone for dental implants, or to support teeth loosened by severe periodontal disease. Your dentist will expose the bone, place natural or synthetic bone material in it, and then close the gum tissue with sutures.
How Smart Preventative Strategies Can Help Prevent Bone Loss
Your everyday wellness choices can make a big difference in your jawbone health. Give your bone generous amounts of dietary calcium, along with enough Vitamin D to activate that calcium’s bone-building value. Dairy products, leafy greens, fish, and nuts all provide calcium, while sunlight causes your body to make Vitamin D.
Don’t neglect or delay your regular dental exams. These exams can catch bone loss problems (and common causes such as periodontal disease) in their early stages, allowing for the best possible response to treatment. If the trouble involves poor dental hygiene, your dentist can advise you how to brush and floss more effectively.
Valley Oak Dental Group can help you monitor your jawbone health, keep your teeth from loosening, and make sure you have sufficient bone for any dental implants you might need. Contact our dental office today to schedule an evaluation and discuss your jawbone health with our team.