Is Your Face Melting?

Posted on Feb 27, 2018 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

In dentistry, the term used for bone loss is resorption. This describes the melting away of bone structures that support teeth, caused by the loss of natural tooth roots.

The relationship that tooth roots have with the bone structures that support them is not something most people think about. We tend to focus on the teeth we see in a smile. Yet, loss of bone mass of the upper or lower jaws can create a number of problems – some related to oral health and some related to facial appearance.

To begin, understand that tooth roots provide nourishment and stimulation to the jaw bones. This helps the jaws to maintain a healthy depth. When tooth roots are removed, the bones slowly begin to shrink. This bone loss begins almost immediately, yet most don’t notice it until it reaches problematic levels.

Because we humans are visual creatures, I’ll begin by explaining the ‘look’ of bone loss, which results from changes in facial structures. Initially, you may only notice more wrinkles around the mouth. Later, you may realize that the corners of your mouth are turning downward, even in a smile.

The extreme visual change of bone resorption is referred to as a ‘granny look.’ This is when the shrinking jaw bones have caused the chin to become pointed and the mouth appears collapsed into the face. The nose gets closer to the chin and jowls form from the detachment of facial muscles. None of this is a good look.

Yet, what’s taking place beneath the gum tissues should be cause for even more concern.

For those who wear a denture or partial, losing jaw bone mass will cause a change in the way the denture or partial fits. For example, your denture may fit fine the first year after your teeth are removed and a denture is fitted. However, you’ll eventually notice slips when biting or chewing.

As bone loss continues, you’ll likely experience uncomfortable rubbing on tender gum tissues while eating. You may start to bypass foods that require rigorous chewing, such as a crusty bagel or thick pork chop. You may also worry about embarrassing slips when dining with friends or family.

When frequent applications of denture pastes or adhesives are of little help, a reline may be recommended by your dentist. Of course, this simply readjusts your denture or partial to fit the current contours of your gum ridge (the raised arch that your denture sits on). Eventually, continued bone loss will require yet another reline as the ridge flattens further.

Denture wearers are typically unaware that the pressure on the gums from wearing a denture actually speeds up the rate of resorption. This means that the problem will only continue, unless stimulation to the jaw bones is recreated.

One of the reasons we recommend dental implants is because of their ability to halt bone loss. Dental implants act as replacement tooth roots, thus restoring stimulation to the jaw bones. Additionally, dental implants use the same, sturdy foundation as natural teeth once had. This means you can bite and chew the foods you love without worrying about embarrassment or uncomfortable movement.

A Periodontist is a dental specialist who has advanced training in the treatment of gum diseases as well as in the diagnosis and placement of dental implants. He or she is specially trained to determine the best implant system for your needs. And, a periodontal specialist can enhance your outcome through proper placement.

If you are missing natural teeth or have become frustrated with a denture or partial, call 828-274-9440. You can begin with a consultation to discuss the type and number of implants most appropriate for your needs. We can also explain the procedural process, comfort options, and review easy payment options.

Your smile goes much deeper than what you see in the mirror. Make sure its structure is solid. Dental implants, which are designed to last your lifetime, can help you enjoy a confident, worry-free smile through your life.



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