Bone Loss Around Teeth


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What Causes Bone Loss In Your Gums?

Bone loss in teeth and jaw can be caused by a variety of factors, including:

  1. Developing periodontal disease: This is the most common cause of bone damage in the jaw. Periodontal disease is a bacterial infection that affects the gums and bone that support the teeth. If left untreated, it can cause jawbone loss in the jaw, which can lead to loose teeth and tooth loss.
  2. Tooth loss: When a tooth is lost, the bone that supported the tooth is no longer stimulated by chewing, and it can begin to resorb or shrink. Over time, this can lead to bone damage in the jaw.
  3. Osteoporosis: This is a condition in which the bones become weaker and more brittle, making them more susceptible to fractures. Osteoporosis can also affect the jawbone, leading to bone loss.
  4. Certain medical conditions: Medical conditions such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and some autoimmune diseases can also cause bone damage in the jaw.
  5. Trauma: Trauma to the jaw or teeth can also cause jawbone loss.
  6. Genetics: Some people may be more susceptible to bone destruction in the jaw due to genetic factors.
  7. Lifestyle factors: Smoking, poor nutrition, and lack of exercise can also contribute to bone injury in the jaw.

It’s important to see a dentist regularly to monitor your oral health and detect any signs of bone destruction in the jaw. Treatment options may include deep cleaning, antibiotics, bone grafts, or other surgical procedures, depending on the cause and severity of the jawbone loss.

Senior woman with bone loss in gums smiling with the ocean behind her

Can I Restore Bone That’s Lost Due to Periodontal Disease?

There is no way to reverse bone loss. There are ways to regenerate bone growth, but generally, periodontal bone loss can be treated, but it may not be completely reversible. The extent of bone destruction, the severity of the disease, and how quickly it is treated are all factors that can affect the success of treatment.

The goal of treatment is to stop the progression of the disease and prevent further bone injury. In some cases, a bone graft or regenerative procedures may be necessary to restore lost bone.

The following treatments may be used to restore lost bone caused by periodontitis:

  1. Scaling and root planing: This is a deep cleaning procedure that removes plaque and calculus from the teeth and gums. It can help to control the bacterial infection that causes periodontitis and prevent further loss.
  2. Antibiotics: In some cases, antibiotics may be prescribed to treat the bacterial infection.
  3. Bone grafting: This is a surgical procedure in which bone graft material is placed in the affected area to stimulate the growth of new bone.
  4. Guided tissue regeneration: This is a regenerative procedure that involves placing a barrier membrane between the gum tissue and the bone to stimulate the growth of new bone and gum tissue.
  5. Laser therapy: Laser therapy can be used to remove infected tissue and promote healing.

It’s important to note that the success of treatment for lost bone caused by periodontal disease depends on early detection and timely intervention. Regular dental checkups and cleanings, along with oral hygiene practices, can help to prevent and treat periodontal disease and its associated jawbone loss.

Man looking in mirror checking his tooth after a dental bone graft

What are the Symptoms of Bone Loss?

Bone loss often occurs silently, meaning that there may not be any symptoms until the condition has progressed significantly. However, there are some signs and symptoms that may indicate bone loss, including:

  1. Receding gums: As jawbone loss occurs, the gums may pull back or recede from the teeth, making them appear longer.
  2. Loose or missing teeth: As the bone that supports the teeth is lost, the teeth may become loose or even fall out, leaving you with a missing tooth.
  3. Changes in bite or alignment of teeth: As teeth become loose or shift position due to jawbone loss, they may not fit together properly, resulting in changes in the bite or alignment of the teeth.
  4. Changes in the appearance of the face: In severe cases of jawbone loss, the face may appear sunken or more aged due to the loss of support for the facial structures.
  5. Pain or discomfort: Jawbone loss can lead to pain or discomfort in the jaw or teeth, especially when chewing or biting down.

If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s important to see a dentist or periodontist for an evaluation. Early detection and treatment of jawbone loss can help to prevent further damage and restore oral health.

Woman bundled up in the snow with dental braces on her teeth after a bone grafting

The Need for Bone Grafting After Bone Loss in Teeth

When there is significant bone loss in the teeth or jaw, a bone grafting procedure may be necessary to restore the lost bone. Grafting is a surgical procedure that involves taking bone from another part of the body, a donor source, or a synthetic material, and placing it in the area where bone loss has occurred.

There are several reasons why bone grafting may be necessary after bone loss in teeth:

  1. To support dental implants: Implants are a common treatment option for replacing missing teeth. However, they require a certain amount of bone support to be successful. If there is not enough bone present, a grafting procedure may be necessary to provide additional support for the implant.
  2. To improve the appearance of the smile: Significant bone loss in the jaw can cause the face to appear sunken or aged. Bone grafting can help to restore lost bone and improve the appearance of the smile.
  3. To prevent further bone loss: Jawbone loss can continue to occur if the underlying cause of the bone loss is not addressed. Grafting can help to restore lost bone and prevent further jawbone loss from occurring.
  4. To support other dental procedures: In some cases, grafting may be necessary to support other dental procedures, such as crown lengthening or gum contouring.

Overall, bone grafting can be an effective way to restore lost bone and improve oral health. Your dentist or periodontist can evaluate your specific situation and recommend the best treatment options for you.

two friends taking a selfie as one wears metal braces on her teeth

Does Gingivitis Cause Bone Loss?

Gingivitis is a mild form of gum disease that affects the gums surrounding the teeth. While gingivitis can cause inflammation, bleeding, and sensitivity of the gums, it usually does not cause bone loss. However, if left untreated, gingivitis can progress to a more serious form of gum disease called periodontitis, which can cause bone loss.

Periodontitis is a bacterial infection that affects the gum tissue and bone that support the teeth. When left untreated, the bacteria can cause the gum tissue to pull away from the teeth, creating pockets between the teeth and gums. These pockets can become infected and cause the bone that supports the teeth to deteriorate, leading to bone loss.

So, while gingivitis itself does not cause bone loss, it is an early warning sign of gum disease, and if left untreated, it can progress to periodontitis, which can lead to bone loss. Therefore, it is essential to practice oral hygiene habits, including brushing twice a day, flossing daily, and seeing a dentist regularly for cleanings and checkups to prevent gingivitis from progressing to periodontitis.

Man smoking to signify that smoking can cause bone loss in the gums

Does Smoking Cause Bone Loss in Teeth?

Yes, smoking is a significant risk factor for bone loss in teeth. Smoking affects the blood vessels in the gums, reducing blood flow and causing the gum tissue to become inflamed. This can lead to gum disease, a bacterial infection that affects the gums and bone that support the teeth. When left untreated, gum disease can cause bone loss in the jaw, leading to tooth loss.

Smoking can also affect bone density and strength throughout the body, including the jawbone. Nicotine and other harmful chemicals in tobacco smoke can interfere with the body’s ability to absorb calcium, a vital mineral for building and maintaining bone mass.

Research has shown that smokers are at a higher risk of developing periodontitis, and the more cigarettes smoked per day, the higher the risk. Smoking can also reduce the effectiveness of treatments for gum disease, making it more challenging to treat.

Therefore, quitting smoking is essential for maintaining good oral health and preventing bone loss in teeth. Your dentist can help you quit smoking and provide guidance on how to maintain oral hygiene practices to prevent gum disease and bone loss.

woman on phone wearing metal braces and exuding good oral hygiene with a smile

The Benefits of Good Oral Hygiene

Excellent oral hygiene is essential for maintaining healthy teeth, gums, and overall oral health. Here are some of the benefits of oral hygiene:

  1. Prevents tooth decay: Brushing twice a day and flossing daily can help remove plaque and prevent decay. Regular dental checkups and cleanings can also detect and treat early signs of decay before they progress.
  2. Prevents gum disease: Gum disease is a bacterial infection that affects the gums and bone that support the teeth. Oral hygiene habits, including brushing, flossing, and regular dental checkups, can help prevent gum disease and its associated complications.
  3. Prevents bad breath: Poor oral hygiene can lead to bad breath, also known as halitosis. Brushing twice a day, flossing daily, and using mouthwash can help prevent poor breath and promote fresh breath.
  4. Maintains overall health: Poor oral hygiene has been linked to several systemic health conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, and respiratory infections. Oral hygiene habits can help maintain overall health and reduce the risk of these and other health conditions.
  5. Saves money: By preventing tooth decay and gum disease, oral hygiene habits can help reduce the need for costly dental treatments and procedures.

In summary, good oral hygiene habits, including brushing twice a day, flossing daily, and seeing a dentist regularly, are essential for maintaining healthy teeth, gums, and overall oral health. By practicing oral hygiene, you can prevent dental problems, maintain overall health, and save money in the long run.

Learn more about why having healthy bone around your teeth is such an important factor for orthodontic treatment.

About the Author

Dr. Robert Kelleher is a board-certified expert who truly understands that every smile he treats is unique. Having worked at UC Davis Medical Center, Dr. Kelleher has a special focus on helping kids with developmental challenges find their smiles. His dedication goes beyond patient care into the heart of orthodontic innovationโ€”Dr. Kelleher has even patented a device that makes treatment safer and helps avoid unnecessary extractions, aiming for the best possible outcomes for all his patients. When heโ€™s not at the clinic, you might find him sharing insights with fellow orthodontists in the Bay Area or diving into the latest research to keep pushing the field forward. Dr. Kelleher is committed to sharing his passion within his articles because he believes that sharing accurate, firsthand knowledge enhances the understanding and trust between him and his patients.

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