Reasons for Jaw Bone Loss and Deterioration

The following are the most common causes for jaw bone deterioration and loss that may require a bone grafting procedure:

Tooth Extractions:

When an adult tooth is removed and not replaced, jaw bone deterioration may occur. Natural teeth are embedded in the jaw bone, and stimulate the jaw bone through activities such as chewing and biting. When teeth are missing, the alveolar bone, or the portion of the jaw bone that anchors the teeth in the mouth, no longer receives the necessary stimulation, and begins to break down, or resorb. The body no longer uses or “needs” the jaw bone, so it deteriorates and goes away.

The rate the bone deteriorates, as well as the amount of bone loss that occurs, varies greatly among individuals. However, most loss occurs within the first eighteen months following the extraction, and continues throughout life.

Periodontal Disease:

Periodontal diseases are ongoing infections of the gums that gradually destroy the support of your natural teeth. Periodontal disease affects one or more of the periodontal tissues: alveolar bone, periodontal ligament, cementum, or gingiva.  Dental plaque is the primary cause of periodontitis in genetically-susceptible individuals. Plaque is a sticky colorless film, composed primarily of food particles and various types of bacteria, which adhere to your teeth at and below the gum line. Plaque constantly forms on your teeth, even minutes after cleaning. Bacteria found in plaque produce toxins or poisons that irritate the gums. Gums may become inflamed, red, swollen, and bleed easily. If this irritation is prolonged, the gums separate from the teeth causing pockets (spaces) to form. If daily brushing and flossing are neglected, plaque can also harden into a rough, porous substance known as calculus (or tartar). This can occur both above and below the gum line.

Periodontitis is when supporting gum tissue and bone that holds teeth in place deteriorates. The progressive loss of this bone can lead to loosening and subsequent loss of teeth.

Dentures/Bridgework:

Unanchored dentures are placed on top of the gum line, and therefore do not provide any direct stimulation to the underlying alveolar bone. Over time, the lack of stimulation causes the bone to resorb and deteriorate. Because this type of denture relies on the bone to hold them in place, people often experience loosening of their dentures and problems eating and speaking. Eventually, bone loss may become so severe that dentures cannot be held in place even with strong adhesives, and a new set may be required. Proper denture care, repair, and refitting are essential to maintaining oral health.

Trauma:

When a tooth is knocked out or broken to the extent that no biting surface is left below the gum line, bone stimulation stops, which results in jaw bone loss. Some common forms of tooth and jaw trauma include: teeth knocked out from injury or accident, jaw fractures, or teeth with a history of trauma that may die and lead to bone loss years after the initial trauma.

A bone grafting procedure would be necessary to reverse the effects of bone deterioration, restoring function and promoting new bone growth in traumatized areas.

Sinus Deficiencies:

When molars are removed from the upper jaw, air pressure from the air cavity in the maxilla (maxillary sinus), causes resorption of the bone that formerly helped hold the teeth in place. As a result, the sinuses become enlarged, a condition called pneumatized sinus.

This condition usually develops over several years, and may result in insufficient bone for the placement of dental implants. Drs. Richins, Weinstein and O’Neal can perform a procedure called a “sinus lift” that can restore sufficient bone to the jaws beneath the sinus so that dental implants can be utilized.