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Bone Loss: the Hidden Consequence of Your Missing Teeth

BoneLosstheHiddenConsequenceofYourMissingTeeth

Losing teeth will certainly disrupt your otherwise beautiful smile. It could also potentially affect your food choices and whether or not you receive proper nutrition.

But something else just as consequential could be happening beneath the surface of your gums—you could be losing bone. Significant bone loss in the jaw could adversely affect remaining teeth and facial structure, as well as limit your future restoration choices.

To understand why this occurs we must first consider what bone is: living, cellular tissue. Like the body's other cells, bone has a life cycle: cells form, live and eventually dissolve (or resorb), and are then replaced by new cells. Stimulation from forces generated during chewing traveling up through the tooth roots to the jawbone keep this cycle going at a healthy pace.

But when a tooth is missing, so is this stimulation. This could slow the replacement rate and cause bone volume to gradually decrease. The jawbone width could decrease by as much as 25% the first year alone and several millimeters in height after just a few years.

Although dentures (a popular and affordable choice) can restore lost function and appearance, they can't duplicate this needed stimulation. They even accelerate bone loss by irritating and creating compressive forces on the bony ridges and the gums they rest upon.

One restoration, however, can actually help stop bone loss and may even reverse it: dental implants. This happens because an implant's metal titanium post imbedded in the jawbone attracts bone cells to grow and adhere to its surface. This could actually increase bone density at the site.

To gain this advantage, it's best to obtain implants as soon as possible after tooth loss. If you allow bone loss to occur by waiting too long, there may not be enough to properly support an implant. Even then it might be possible to build up the diminished bone through grafting. But if that's not possible, we'll have to consider a different restoration.

To determine the condition of your bone after losing teeth, visit us for a complete examination. Afterward, we'll be able to discuss with you the best way to address both your overall dental health and your smile.

If you would like more information on treating missing teeth, 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 “The Hidden Consequences of Losing Teeth.”

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  • "Dear Jay,

    I have been to the dentist here in Raleigh,NC twice since coming here from Morristown, NJ (and the magnificent dinner in Westfield with you, your lovely wife and Ginny Williams) and both times the dentist has said, "Wow! Whoever did your dental work was a real professional. You need nothing done except a routine cleaning."

    Jane and I miss you. And your exquisite professionalism. And, of course, we miss much more your friendship."
    Roland P. Perdue
  • "I recently switched to Dr. Schuster and am so happy I did. He is an amazing Dentist and the nicest person in the world. The work he has done for me has be nothing but amazing.

    Thanks much!!!!"
    Irene Scanlon
  • "Dear Dr. Schuster,

    Jay, really nice crown. Now THAT’s the way dentistry should be done:)

    Thank you for allowing me to participate in the care of your patient. I will of course keep you apprised of any changes if they occur. If I may be of any additional assistance regarding this or any other patient, please feel free to call.

    With best personal regards,"
    Mitchell H. Davich, DMD, FACD, FICD