Bone loss can occur for a number of reasons, but the most common cause of bone loss is the result of a missing tooth or several teeth which have not been replaced or substituted.
Natural teeth that are embedded in the jawbone help stimulate bone growth through chewing and biting. When missing teeth are left untreated, the bone no longer receives this stimulation, causing the bone to resorb.
Without a replacement tooth or dental solution, 25% of bone is lost within the first year of a tooth extraction and will continue to deteriorate over time.
What causes bone loss?
The most common causes for jawbone deterioration and loss include:
1. Tooth extractions
Natural teeth help stimulate bone growth through various activities, including biting and chewing. When a tooth is extracted but not replaced, that portion of the jawbone no longer receives the required stimulation and starts to deteriorate and resorb.
2. Gum disease
Serious gum infections such as gingivitis or periodontitis damage soft tissue and destroys the bone structure that supports your teeth.
Dental plaque is the most common form of tooth decay and the primary cause of gingivitis. Plaque is easily preventable with daily brushing and flossing, but if left unchecked, can harden into a rough, porous substance known as tartar. This can occur both above and below the gumline and can irritate the gums, causing them to become inflamed, red, swollen and bleed easily.
If gingivitis is left untreated it may progress into more serious gum diseases, including periodontitis, whereby the supporting gum tissue and bone that holds teeth in place starts to deteriorate. The progressive loss of bone can lead to the loosening and subsequent loss of neighbouring teeth.
3. Dentures or bridgework
Loose dentures that are placed on top of the gum line may not necessarily provide any direct stimulation to the underlying jawbone and rely on the current bone structure to be held securely into place.
Over time, this lack of stimulation may cause the bone to resorb and deteriorate, making it harder for users to eat and speak properly — this is where the term loose dentures come from. If left untreated, bone loss may become so severe that dentures can no longer be held in place, even with the use of stronger adhesives, and may require a new set to be made.
Bridge supported dentures which use adjacent teeth as support may provide adequate stimulation to preserve the bone. However, the portion that the bridge spans across the gap where there are missing teeth, will receive no direct stimulation and can often result in bone loss.
Bridgework may also require neighbouring teeth to be filed down to attach dental appliance.
If a tooth is knocked out or damaged and can no longer provide the stimulation received from biting or chewing, jawbone loss may occur. Common forms of trauma are usually the result of a sport-related injury, including jaw fractures, knocked out, cracked or chipped teeth.
Bone loss can occur from misalignment when teeth are no longer providing direct stimulation as a result of not having an opposing tooth structure. Other misalignment issues, including TMJ, wisdom teeth erupting, lack of treatment and normal wear-and-tear can also result in the inability to perform natural activities such as chewing and biting.
Over time, bone loss can occur due to a lack of direct stimulation.
Bone loss can occur for a number of reasons, only your dentist will be able to provide you with the exact cause and the type of dental solution needed to prevent any further loss.
That being said, following good oral hygiene and care greatly improves your chances of successful treatment, including brushing twice a day, flossing with proper technique at least once a day, and visiting your dentist every 6 months.
In severe cases of bone loss, bone grafting may be required to replace missing bone and to promote the growth of new bone in that location, opening up the door for other dental treatments, including dental implants.