Tooth loss doesn't just make it harder to eat or cause patients to feel self conscious when smiling. Long-term tooth loss can actually lead to the loss of jawbone tissue. This can cause the remaining teeth to shift out of place, and even change a patient’s facial appearance by making it look more sunken in. One of the best ways to prevent bone loss caused by missing teeth is dental implant treatment. Dental implants offer a permanent solution to restoring dental function while also improving oral health and preventing bone loss. Learn more about how dental implants prevent bone loss in this overview from Harrisonburg, VA dentists Joe McIntyre and Dan Whiting.
How Does Tooth Loss Cause Bone Loss?
The jawbone needs stimulation to retain its shape and density. The teeth themselves provide this stimulation through chewing and biting. This regular movement of the teeth encourages the jawbone to grow and rebuild to support the teeth. Once a tooth is lost, the jawbone no longer receives stimulation, causing the jawbone to lose width, height, and volume. As the jawbone atrophies, specifically in cases in which many teeth are missing, the structure of the face can change.
How Do Dental Implants Prevent Bone Loss?
Dental implants are an effective treatment to replace missing teeth and prevent the loss of jawbone tissue. Dental implants are different than other tooth loss replacement treatments, like dental bridges and dentures, in that they mimic the natural tooth root. Dental implants are small titanium posts surgically placed within the jawbone. The dental implants attach to dental restorations, including dental crowns, bridges, and dentures.
In order for dental implant treatment to be successful, the jawbone must grow around the implant, in a process called osseointegration. Because the dental implant acts like a natural tooth root, the jawbone will once again receive stimulation and respond by regenerating itself, just as it does when the natural teeth are in place.
What If I Already Have Significant Bone Loss?
It's not uncommon for those who have suffered from long-term tooth loss or worn dentures for an extended period of time to have some degree of atrophy of the jawbone. Sufficient jawbone is necessary to support dental implants and ensure the success of treatment. For those who have lost a significant amount of jawbone density, dental implant treatment may still be an option provided a bone graft is performed. Bone grafts can help rebuild portions of the jaw so there is adequate density to support dental implants.
Are You a Candidate for Dental Implant Surgery?
Dental implant treatment requires minor oral surgery. Candidates must be in good general health, have relatively healthy gums and teeth, and be non-smokers. Those who smoke must quite prior to surgery and during recovery to reduce the risk of implant failure and other complications.
Discover Your Treatment Options
For more information about dental implant treatment, we welcome you to schedule a consultation with Dr. McIntyre or Dr. Whiting. Our dentists can perform an exam to determine if you are a good candidate for treatment.