Missing Teeth Can Lead To Facial Bone Loss

Posted on Jun 09, 2020 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

For people who need to replace missing teeth, they are seeking the restoration of their smile’s appearance and the ability to eat. Some look into dentures or partials. Yet, when people are initially fitted for these dental prosthetics, there is often no warning of what is to come.

There are many reasons why dentures don’t have a great reputation. Most individuals have heard many of the common complaints that come with them. These include movement when biting or chewing, sore spots on tender gum tissues, drooling, uneasiness when speaking or eating during social settings, and having to remove them at bedtime.

Dentures have been around for many centuries, even before Christ (B.C. years). Although a famous trait of George Washington was his ‘wooden teeth,’ dentures have been significantly improved over the years. (By the way, according to Mount Vernon Museum, Washington had dentures made of materials such as ivory, gold and lead, but not wood. (Mt. Vernon Museum)

A denture’s “false teeth” are supported by a gum-colored base. The base that holds these artificial teeth is often made out of a resin or a more flexible polymer material. This is designed to fit the unique shape of the ‘arch’ where tooth roots were once held. This arch is actually the protruding portion of upper or lower jaw bone, covered over by gum tissues.

Replacement teeth are commonly made of the same resin or polymer as the base, colored and shape to mimic teeth. However, this material can easily chip or crack if dropped. The material also wears down, requiring replacement every 5-7 years, as recommended by the American Dental Association (ADA). This is because the denture’s fit changes year after year.

Let’s go back to before you lost your teeth for a moment. When natural teeth are present, the jaw bones that support their roots are nourished and nurtured. After tooth roots are removed from the bone, the jaw bones begin to shrink. This causes the arch to flatten out, which causes dentures to slip and move, especially when eating.

As the arch (or “ridge”) loses height, the fit becomes less and less secure. More-frequent applications of denture adhesives or pastes are needed. Relines can be done to re-contour the denture’s base to conform to the individual’s declining arch. However, the declining arch height will continue, requiring periodic relines and, eventually, a new denture. And more relines, and so on and so on.

To add to the frustrations of the denture’s fit, food choices typically change to softer foods that dissolve quickly in the mouth. Laughter becomes overshadowed with concern over embarrassing slips. Social invitations aren’t as readily accepted.

Changes in facial appearance also take place when bone structures shrink. For example, as the jaw bone thins, deep wrinkles form around the mouth. The corners of the mouth will start to turn down, even in a smile. Jowls form on each side of the face as facial muscles detach from the shrinking bone structure.

As the jaw bone declines further, the chin becomes more pointed and the nose seems to get closer to it. This leads to a collapsed mouth that is known as a “granny look.” This look ages the appearance of an individual far beyond their actual years.

As an Asheville periodontist, my dental specialty includes the diagnosis and placement of dental implants. Dental implants are the closest thing to natural teeth.

Among the benefits of dental implants, they provide stimulation to the jaw bone. This helps to halt the process of bone loss. For those who have already lost a great deal of bone, bone rebuilding procedures can be performed to restore a healthy, more youthful facial shape.

Dental implants restore the ability to bite and chew comfortably and without worry. Because implants are placed in the jaw bone, they provide the same dependable foundation as that once enjoyed with natural teeth.

Keep in mind that most implant types today are non-removable. You’ll be able to brush your teeth in your mouth again, laugh with friends, and eat the foods you love – without worry.

Dental implants are also designed to last a lifetime. They can last as long as you do! With the help of dental implants, the shape of your face and the strength of your jaw bone can be preserved long after tooth loss.

Call 828-274-9440 to schedule a consultation to discuss dental implants.


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