Many of us associate a missing tooth purely with unsightly gaps in the mouth. However, the issue of jawbone resorption is often overlooked and can go unnoticed, with symptoms being very subtle and in some cases only detectable through the eyes of a dentist. Whilst dentures are an effective solution to replacing a missing tooth, since they are removable they do not solve the issue of jawbone shrinkage (resorption) whereas dental implants, a fixed and permanent treatment, can help restore the health of your jawbone to 100% in terms of function and aesthetic.
What happens to the jawbone after tooth loss?
The jawbone acts in a similar way to a muscle in the sense that when a muscle is exercised, it grows stronger and larger. When you break a bone in the body and it is recovering in a cast, it is not receiving the simulation it is used to and your muscles will shrink over this period. In the case of your jawbone, it is your teeth that provide such stimulation. The jawbone requires stimulation of the tooth roots to maintain its strength, density and form, so when you lose a tooth, it no longer receives such stimulation and begins to shrink as a result.
How do dental implants combat this?
The ‘implant’ part of the phrase ‘dental implant’ refers to the tooth root mentioned above. Dental implants, unlike dentures, are surgically placed into the jawbone and left to fuse with it over a period of around 6 months. Once this has occurred, a restoration (the aesthetic tooth part of the implant such as a crown or bridge) will be custom created and placed over the top. Overtime the body will respond as if a real tooth root has been placed, as you are now able to use your new tooth, prompting the bone tissue to grow around it, restoring the stimulation it needs to prevent resorption.
Aesthetic complications of resorption
Jawbone loss brings about its own aesthetic problems that go beyond having a missing tooth. Failing to address a missing tooth overtime will cause the jawbone to go through structural changes that can make you appear older than your years; the distance between the chin and the nose decreases due to the jawbone significantly shrinking making you susceptible to jawbone fractures. Should so-called bite collapse occur, the front teeth can become squashed as they are not designed to support facial height or to chew food, rather to hold, incise and tear it. Although it may seem hard to believe, these complications can occur with very few symptoms along the way, until the ‘bite collapse’ phase described above occurs. Regular check-ups are essential in detecting early possible signs that you might be on your way to losing a tooth, in order to avoid the need for dental implants or dentures.
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