Bone Resorption: The Ultimate Consequence of Tooth Loss

Learn about bone resorption and the prevention of bone loss

Why does bone loss result from tooth loss?

Image of a Jaw Bone

Natural tooth roots are embedded in the jawbone, providing a stable foundation that allows the teeth to function properly.   The part of your natural tooth that is visible is referred to as the crown.  The tooth root is embedded in your jawbone, giving the tooth a stable foundation that allows chewing and biting.  When teeth are lost or extracted, the bone that previously supported those teeth no longer serves a purpose and begins to deteriorate, or resorb.  Bone melts away where a tooth is missing, creating a visible defect.

How can this bone loss be prevented?

Dental implants are substitute tooth roots, providing the same function like natural tooth roots, including stimulating the bone, thereby preserving it and preventing the bone loss that would normally occur with tooth loss. The jawbone actually forms a bond with the dental implants, creating a stable foundation for replacement teeth that look, feel, and function like natural teeth.

What happens when you lose a tooth in the front or anterior part of your mouth?

The bone in the front of the mouth is very thin.  When teeth are lost in this part of the mouth, the bone will usually melt away or resorb rather quickly, giving the appearance that the bone and gums are caving in, or collapsing. Often this defect is visible when smiling.

If you replace a front tooth with a tooth-supported bridge, eventually the replacement tooth looks like a false tooth as the gums and bone above it begin to collapse, leaving the tooth hanging, or suspended without support. When a tooth is replaced with an implant-supported crown, the implant functions like a natural tooth root and preserves the bone, preventing the defect in the bone that would normally occur with tooth loss.

What happens when you lose a tooth in the back or posterior part of your mouth?

When teeth are lost in the posterior part of the mouth, the back of your mouth actually collapses as the bone resorbs.  Your facial appearance begins to change as the height of the jaw decreases.  Posterior bite collapse is a result of significant bone loss.  If a partial denture is used to replace your posterior teeth, the bone loss or resorption is accelerated because the partial puts pressure on the gums and underlying bone as you eat.  If an implant-supported bridge is used instead to replace the posterior teeth, bone is preserved, preventing bite collapse.