A wise man once said, “No man is an island.” Something similar could be said about our teeth — their health and vitality are intricately linked with a person’s general health. Missing teeth in particular can set off a chain reaction that leads to bone loss, an issue for both your health and appearance.
Bone is composed of living cells that go through normal cycles of growth and resorption (the dissolving of mineral composition in the bone). In our early years, there’s more growth than resorption as our skeletal structure develops; in adulthood the cycle tends to equalize between the two phases. In our later years, the cycle tends more toward resorption.
The action of biting and chewing actually helps keep the cycle on track as the generated forces stimulate bone growth. When teeth are missing, though, the bone no longer receives this stimulation and will resorb at a higher rate. This is especially a concern for people who’ve suffered a complete loss of their teeth.
This bone loss may in turn trigger a number of related problems. The jaws may no longer close properly, leading to painful stress in the joints. Nutrition suffers as food choices become limited due to the lack of teeth and bite problems. And, a person’s appearance may change as well — the bone loss shortens the look of the face and causes the person to appear much older than they are.
Because of these potential problems, we should do everything we can to preserve and prolong natural teeth. But if preservation isn’t an option, then some form of restoration should be pursued. Dental implants in particular may actually prevent and even reverse bone loss. Bone has an affinity with titanium (which is what the implant is made from) and will attach and grow around it over time. This not only anchors the implant, it also increases bone mass where it may have been prematurely lost.
Caring for and preserving your natural teeth is one of the best things you can do for the health of your jawbone. If you lose your teeth, though, there are ways to restore them and protect bone health — and your smile — at the same time.
If you would like more information on the effects of tooth loss, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “New Teeth in One Day.”