Jawbone Deterioration 101

Jawbone Deterioration: Recognizing the Symptoms and What to Do Next? 

In the simplest of terms, jawbone deterioration is the loss of bone mass in the jaw. Anytime we use biting and chewing motions we help strengthen the jawbone because stimulation occurs. Stimulation is made by applying pressure from the teeth to the roots every time we bite or chew. When a tooth is lost or removed, the structure of the jawbone becomes affected as there is nothing in place to help anchor teeth inside our mouth. This disrupts bone stimulation and the jawbone begins to slowly deteriorate — and dental implants can help with that.

Dental implants are a safe and long-term solution for tooth replacements. The implants are integrated into the jawbone, providing a strong foundation and support to the jawbone, teeth, and other dental devices. A healthy and strong jawbone, together with teeth, is the key to ensuring good oral function, aesthetics, and overall health. That is why protecting the health of the jawbone, and teeth is so important. 

What Causes Bone Loss and What Are the Risk Factors?

Natural teeth are far more important than we realize. Teeth, with the support of the muscles, help stimulate the jawbone to perform biting and chewing motions. When we bite and chew, we help strengthen our bones through a process known as osseointegration. 

The loss or removal of teeth disrupts the process of osseointegration and eventually leads to bone and gum erosion. This is why healthy teeth are needed to keep the jawbone strong, and a healthy jawbone is required to support existing teeth. Thus, missing teeth can compromise more than just your smile.

Yet, what causes tooth loss? Diseases such as gingivitis leading to advanced periodontal disease, trauma, and tooth extractions are the preliminary causes. Stimulation of the bone is disrupted anytime adult teeth are lost and not replaced. Unless a dental implant or bone graft is used to anchor the replacement tooth, the jawbone will begin to deteriorate.

Other conditions that compromise a healthy jawbone include:

  • Developmental deformities — bite abnormality or malocclusion
  • Years of denture wearing 
  • Bridgework
  • Osteoporosis

Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms 

The early stage of jawbone deterioration is sometimes difficult to detect. Jaw pain, headaches, discomfort when chewing, inward sinking lips, bite and facial changes are some of the symptoms associated with jawbone deterioration. As deterioration increases, you will notice many of the following symptoms:

  • Misaligned and loosened teeth 
  • Issues with speaking
  • Significant distortion to facial features
  • Premature wrinkles 
  • Sunken and hollow-looking appearance 
  • Chronic pain (jaw, neck, headaches, etc.)
  • Limited lip support
  • Changes in the fit and support of dentures 
  • Inadequate nutrition due to lack of eating 
  • Maxillary sinus issues

Effects of Jawbone Deterioration: Can it Be Prevented? 

Untreated bone deterioration may lead to dire consequences, especially if the condition has progressed. These consequences are serious and sometimes may be irreversible. You can avoid being in this situation by taking measures to prevent tooth loss in the first place, as well as replacing missing teeth as soon as possible. It is important to take control of your lifestyle as a way to both ease symptoms and prevent further damage. Keeping to a good hygiene regime, not smoking, and limiting alcohol intake is a start. 

The recommendation is to seek out care before your situation gets any worse. Early detection and treatment of jawbone deterioration provides better outcomes. In fact, the longer you wait, the more limited treatment options become.  

Treatment Options for Jawbone Deterioration

First, it is vital to get a proper diagnosis as no two patients will have the same treatment plan. The treatment itself will most likely depend on the reason for the bone deterioration. Fortunately, there are many different treatment options available. 

The most affordable and convenient treatment patients seek are removable dentures. But even though removable dentures help restore your smile, they do not actually counteract jawbone deterioration. Rather, removable or non-anchored dentures put too much pressure on the underlying jawbone and, over time, this leads to further bone deterioration.To slow down the deterioration of the bone, it is vital to regularly visit the dentist for repair, refitting, and replacement purposes.

Alternatively, placing an anchored denture is another option. Unlike traditional dentures, implant-supported dentures help prevent bone tissue loss. Implant-supported dentures are surgically fixed into the jawbone and therefore, provide structural stability. A dentist installs a fixed denture by firmly screwing in a number of implants to the jawbone and attaching a denture to the implants. This virtually eliminates the risk of slips and shifts that occur with removable dentures. Fixed dentures are the preferred alternative. 

Likewise, regular dental implants are one of the most effective treatments for restoring bone loss and preserving your facial structure. An implant dentist fuses the implant device directly to the jawbone, allowing the implant to function just as a natural tooth root. Made from surgical-grade materials, implants are the ideal treatment option. When accurately placed, dental implants look and perform like real teeth. The titanium alloy used to make implants helps to give it a more ‘normal’ or tooth like appearance.

A bone grafting procedure is the alternate option to help strengthen the jawbone. A grafting procedure is useful in extensive cases of bone loss to help rebuild the damaged or diseased bone. A bone graft is placed in one of two ways, either to the jaw itself or to the back region of the sinuses. Whichever of the two techniques are used, the graft is placed in such a way that it encourages stimulation. The more stimulation there is, the more natural bone regrowth there is. Furthermore, this helps to halt jawbone resorption.

What to Do Next 

Bone loss in the jaw is sure to be a harrowing experience, whatever the root cause may be. Nevertheless, your dental professional can work with you to get a proper diagnosis and from there, develop the most beneficial treatment plan to improve your jawbone deterioration. An effective treatment plan will not only help to restore strong and healthy jaw and teeth, but, help maximise overall oral health and aesthetics.