What Causes Dental Bone Loss?

What is Dental Bone Loss?

Dental bone loss is a natural part of aging, but can be exacerbated by periodontitis or losing teeth. With gum diseases like periodontitis, the jawbone, gum tissues, and periodontal ligaments are gradually eroded by bacteria. Lost teeth can be due to gum disease, by trauma (accidental impacts to the face or mouth), or tooth extractions.

The alveolar bone forms the ridges along the top and bottom of the mouth in which the teeth are set and supported by. Atrophy causes these ridges to erode both horizontally and vertically, leaving weakened and smaller areas in the mouth. This is referred to as resorption, when the body reabsorbs bone mass as it seems no longer necessary to maintain. An average of 25% of bone density is lost in the first year of resorption, and will continue year after year until treated.

Other Causes of Bone Loss

Gum disease is a major factor in bone loss. When plaque and tartar form below the gum line, they can quickly move toward the roots of the teeth. If left untreated, bacteria that forms the plaque can cause tooth decay and infection. When the infection spreads, it can eat away at the underlying bone in the jaw, resulting in tooth and bone loss.

Unrelated medical conditions can play a large role in dental bone loss. Tumors can form in the jaw, face, or mouth. When these tumors are excised, often large sections of bone are affected and also removed. The resulting loss of mass can exacerbate natural bone loss because they remove biting and chewing surfaces that no longer receive necessary stimulation.

When teeth are extracted, such as upper molars or wisdom teeth, the sinus cavity will often expand to fill the newly created void. The air pressure from the newly enlarged sinus cavity causes the bone around the area to further resorb.

What Can Be Done About Bone Loss?

The key to retaining bone mass in the mouth is maintaining chewing surfaces and pressuring them during chewing. When teeth are lost chewing does not provide stimulation to the areas without teeth. While dentures allow for chewing, they do not exert as much chewing pressure on the alveolar bone, sometimes as little as 10% less, leading to further bone loss. Misaligned teeth cause similar problems, as the bite does not properly meet and thus does not exert the proper amount of pressure.

When significant bone loss has occurred, dental implants or bone grafting will be necessary to prevent further resorption. Synthetic or natural materials are placed into the gums or onto the existing bone, allowing for replacement teeth to be fitted and bone regrowth to naturally occur.

The best way to deal with bone loss is to take preventative measures. Regular visits to a dentist will help to maintain a clean mouth and remove plaque that has reached below the gum line. Dentists can also track how quickly resorption is occurring and treat their patients accordingly. Finally, practicing proper daily oral hygiene is vital to slowing bone loss. Brushing at least twice a day and flossing with proper technique at least once a day will go a long way to keeping a healthy mouth and healthy smile.

What is Dental Bone Loss