People with missing teeth will sometimes look much older than they really are. This is the result of the deterioration of the jawbone that comes with the loss of teeth. Here, our Lethbridge dentists explain why this happens and how implants can help.
Missing Teeth & Your Jaw Bone
In order to maintain your bones' density and form, they require stimulation. For your jaw, this stimulation will come from their teeth. These teeth make hundreds of brief contacts with one another every day. These contact produce small stresses on your teeth and transmit them to the bone, prompting your jaw to continuously regenerate.
When you lose a tooth, the stimulation it provided for the surrounding bone disappears, and this can result in bone loss. A single missing tooth is often the first sign of bone density being lost. Without the reinforcing presence the tooth provides, the bone in this area starts to shrink.
Bone density is further reduced as teeth keep breaking down and falling out, setting off a destructive cycle.
When enough teeth are lost and your jawbone continues to degenerate, the distance from your nose to your chin will decrease through a condition call ed facial collapse. Your lips will sag with the absence of structural support. Because of this people with missing teeth may appear unhappy or much older than they really are. Bone loss can also make you susceptible to fractures and erosion in your jaw too, impacting your ability to chew and speak.
In addition to jaw bone deterioration, the teeth that remain will start to shift into the gaps left by the missing teeth. In turn, this can cause additional bite problems and even jaw joint (TMJ) pain.
How Dental Implants Help
Dental implants are tooth replacements that are designed in part to prevent all this. For starters, dental implants can help to restore the function and aesthetics of your smile, allowing you to eat, chew and speak effectively while maintaining the appearance of strong, healthy teeth.
In addition, dental implants can actually prevent bone loss. This is because they are made of titanium, which can fuse to living bone. When dental implants are surgically implanted into the jaw, they become a permanent part of it, stimulating and stabilizing the bone to help it maintain its volume and density.
Dental implants are placed during an in-office surgical procedure using local anesthetic. Them either immediately or after some healing time, your implant will be topped with a dental crown. When used together, these components feel and function like a normal tooth.
Since implants work much like natural teeth, they will exert the same amount of pressure against the jaw bone, which keeps it functional and healthy.
With regular brushing, flossing, and professional cleanings — the same maintenance and care that natural teeth require — your dental implants will be permanent and can last for many years, and possibly even for life.
Ask Your Dentist for Recommendations
When it comes to jaw bone density, time plays an important role. It's critical that gaps left by missing teeth are filled as soon as possible since the longer a patient waits, the more bone density will be lost, making it more difficult to insert a dental implant to reinforce the jaw bone.
Your dentist is an important resource when it comes to oral health and can make appropriate recommendations regarding whether you need a tooth replacement, and which one is right for you.