With all the talk about teeth we sometimes overlook the importance of a healthy jaw and the jawbones that support your teeth. You may have noticed someone whose face and cheeks have a ‘sunken’ appearance. This occurs when too many teeth are missing and there is nothing to support the soft cheek tissue. But a sunken appearance isn’t the only consequence of too many missing teeth.
Your Teeth and Jaws Work Together
We know that our teeth must have the support of the jaw to work properly. But the jaw also depends upon our teeth for its continued health and strength. Why is this so?
Every time we chew the roots of our teeth put pressure on our jawbones, a lot of pressure. This pressure stimulates the tissue in the jaw to regenerate, replacing old tissue and maintaining jawbone health. Every missing tooth creates a void in the jawbone and eliminates the regeneration process in that area. The empty space left by the missing tooth is also now available for neighboring teeth to “drift” into, albeit very slowly. As the bone loss from the missing tooth continues the drifting teeth can actually become loose and vulnerable to loss. Thus a cycle of tooth and bone loss can spread the problem from the initial lost tooth to many more.
It is interesting to note that people who have had many, or all, of their teeth missing for many years often have very little bone structure left to support appliances like dentures. The lack of bone, or a “ridge” for the denture to rest on is one of the main reasons a patient will experience tipping and movement, especially in the lower denture.
Steps to Prevent Unnecessary Loss of Jawbone
Try to avoid loss of teeth through regular dental care and maintenance.
Have missing teeth replaced as soon as possible.
Consider “fixed” bridges that “bridge” over the missing tooth and are supported by a neighboring tooth on each side. These bridges are not removable and help prevent the abutment teeth from moving into the space left by the missing tooth.
Consider implants that will actually replace the missing tooth
What If Multiple Teeth Are Missing?
When too many teeth are missing a fixed bridge may not be the best solution. In those cases multiple implants to support a “fixed” bridge might provide a good solution. Multiple implants may also be a way to stabilize dentures for those with enough remaining jawbone. Allow us to assess your situation and provide you with a choice of solutions that are best for you.