Jawbone Loss: Sustain the Health & Beauty of Your Smile
What You Need to Know About Bone Resorption
Losing teeth to decay, gum disease, or general damage goes beyond being a simple cosmetic problem. Gaps in your smile can certainly detract from having a beautiful, youthful smile, but worse yet, they can trigger something called bone resorption. Bone resorption can leave you with a sunken face from jawbone loss and numerous other oral health issues.
Here’s what you need to know.
What is bone resorption, and what are the symptoms?
Did you know that bone is constantly remodeling itself? We often think of bone as the stable foundation of our bodies. Sure, bones can break or develop damage, but most people don’t know that our bones are in a consistent cycle of resorption and ossification.
Bone resorption occurs when osteoclasts, bone-resorbing cells, break down old bone. The old bone is broken down into minerals and released as calcium into the bloodstream. The calcium is then transferred around the body, where osteoblasts begin the ossification of new bone.
So, how does this process lead to bone loss in the jaw? Well, when osteoclasts are triggering resorption at a rate too high for ossification, the bone begins to lose density too quickly, without enough time for the osteoblasts to do their job.
Tooth loss is the most common situation in which an area of the jawbone gets stuck in the bone resorption phase. Not only can the extraction of a tooth cause trauma to the jawbone, but the lack of the root also means the bone is no longer being stimulated, which is necessary for the remodeling process. The combination of both factors halts ossification while triggering resorption.
The most common symptoms of bone resorption include:
- Premature aging and a sagging look around the face
- Changes in your bite (how your teeth meet)
- New wrinkles around your mouth
- Pain when chewing or speaking
- General jaw and head pain or tenderness, sometimes with headaches
- Teeth that feel wiggly or look longer than normal in appearance (gum recession)
Can bone resorption be prevented or reversed?
Yes, and yes! As damaging as bone resorption can be for your oral health, it’s still preventable and treatable, despite the permanent damage it can cause, and it can be reversed.
Preventing bone resorption with great oral hygiene and restorative care.
Bone resorption is preventable when proactive care is taken to stop tooth loss before it happens or when a lost tooth is replaced as swiftly as possible following extraction.
You can reduce the likelihood of tooth loss by practicing excellent oral hygiene at home and by seeing Dr. Desai every six months for a checkup and cleaning. If a tooth needs to be removed, Dr. Desai will recommend a dental implant be placed immediately.
Dental implants support and stimulate healthy jawbone density, so it’s important to follow through with the surgery when your bad tooth is extracted or as soon as Dr. Desai recommends it. Not only will your dental implant look and feel like a beautiful, natural tooth, but it’s also the only prosthetic option that stops future bone resorption.
Reversing bone resorption after bone loss has already occurred
Bone grafts are a surgical procedure often used in the medical field. They’re also a popular method of reversing bone loss in the world of dentistry.
Using natural or synthetic tissue, this donor material will be placed within a space made in the jawbone where the density loss has occurred. The body will recognize this material as usable bone and begin the remodeling process on its own. Once the healing period is complete, your jawbone will once again have healthy density, as if the original bone loss had never occurred.
How is bone resorption treated by Dr. Desai?
Dr. Desai will evaluate your overall oral health and take X-rays to see what’s going on with your jawbone structure. It’s important to determine the underlying cause of bone resorption before attempting to restore healthy density.
In the case of missing teeth, diagnosis is fairly easy, but sometimes patients can have multiple oral health concerns occurring at once. For example, if a patient has missing teeth but also experiences bruxism or teeth grinding due to a TMJ disorder, Dr. Desai will need to treat both issues individually to help the patient fully recover.
With a diagnosis and treatment plan in place, Dr. Desai will move forward with rebuilding the bone density lost with bone grafts. Sometimes, a bone graft can be done when a bad tooth is extracted or in conjunction with dental implant surgery. If you’re not a candidate for this option, you’ll instead have a bone graft completed first and return for restorative care or dental implant surgery after bone graft healing is complete.
The final step in treating bone resorption is preventing it from happening again. Dr. Desai will replace any missing teeth you have with a dental implant option and follow up with a preventive care plan to maintain your results.
Book a consultation with Dr. Desai to protect your jawbone health.
Bone resorption in the jaw can occur more quickly than you might think, and the sooner you take action, the better.
If you currently have gaps from missing teeth, or you’ve noticed your face taking on the trademark sunken appearance caused by bone resorption, don’t wait to see Dr. Desai for an evaluation. Schedule your visit with Dr. Desai by calling our Newport Beach office or requesting an appointment online. We also offer virtual consultations as part of our concierge dentistry service.