Tooth Loss and Bone Loss
Consequences of Tooth Loss, Bone Loss, and Years of Wearing Dentures
Losing teeth leads to a series of negative consequences in the mouth, effecting the health of not only the mouth but also overall health. These consequences are even furthered with loss of several teeth, and especially with loss of all of ones teeth. The purpose of the bone surrounding the teeth in the jaw is to support the teeth, and once the tooth/teeth are gone the bone loses its purpose and begins to literally “melt” away. It is a process that starts immediately after teeth are extracted, proceeds very rapidly over the first year, and then proceeds gradually over the rest of the person’s life. The bone loss becomes a disease.
- Bone loss – up to 30% the 1st year after and 60% first 3 years
- Shrinking of gum tissue, along with loss of bone, less surface area for denture to hold onto over years
- Loss of chewing ability
- Embarrassment from ill-fitting denture causing avoidance of social situations
- Decreased confidence and satisfaction with life
- Thinning of gum tissue, causing sensitivity to rubbing of denture
- Gradual loss of stability in a person’s natural bite which can lead to pain and problems in the jaw joint (TMJ)
- Increased spending on denture adhesives
- Esthetics suffer
- Loss of lip and cheek support which can cause premature wrinkling and create appearance of premature aging
- Nutrition suffers from inability to eat healthier foods (fruits, vegetables, etc.) and life span may be decreased
- Speech is often affected
- Higher risk for other health problems and increased medical costs
- Progressive increased denture movement caused by ill-fitting of denture, increased pressure by muscles of mouth and tongue
- Tongue becomes larger and more active in eating leading to less denture stability
These continual changes in the bone and gum cause dentures to gradually stop fitting as they were originally intended to, leading to loose dentures, denture sores, and actually increased bone loss. This is why dentures are supposed to be replaced every 5 to 10 years.
The only way to stop this melting away of bone is dental implants. Dental implants replace the roots of teeth, and thus give the surrounding bone its purpose and function back, stabilizing and stopping the bone loss!
However, what often happens is that by the time a person decides they want dental implants after tooth loss, they have lost too much bone to place implants (you need enough bone to support the implant), and thus require more extensive bone grafting before implants can be placed. This is why waiting too long after tooth loss to place implants can lead to increased cost to place implants.
Planning in advance before extracting of teeth can also allow us to decrease the immediate bone loss that occurs by performing a simple procedure called site/ridge preservation at the time of extraction. This is a very important procedure that can make future placement of implants much more predictable and less costly, and should be done on everyone having teeth extracted and considering implants in the future.