A Major Cause of Premature Facial Aging
The condition of your teeth and gums has a profound impact on how your face ages. Compare two women of the same age side by side. One of them has healthy teeth and jawbone structure; the other has lost all of her teeth. The one with no teeth, most likely wearing a denture, will appear up to ten or more years older than the woman with a healthy mouth.
You may be familiar with the signs of premature facial aging: a thinning of the lips, wrinkles or sagging around the mouth and jaw, and the chin moving closer to the nose. A once-balanced smile often grows crooked as the teeth wear unevenly. Although this can happen with natural aging, oral bone loss can bring about these changes well before your time.
What is oral bone loss?
The bone in the jaw supports and anchors the teeth. When it begins to shrink and degenerate (called ?resorption?) your teeth lose their support. With a reduction in overall facial bone, the structure holding your muscle and skin in place collapses. Hence, a sagging face.
Due to the fact that bone loss is painless, it can progress over the course of many years until teeth become loose in the jaw and are dislodged.
What leads to oral bone loss and can it be prevented?
Gum disease. One half of all American adults over the age of 30 has periodontal disease, says findings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Ranging from mild to severe, this disease manifests as chronic inflammation affecting the gum tissue and bone supporting the teeth. Women are particularly susceptible to periodontal problems, as female hormones affect the gums.
If your gums are puffy, red and bleed when you brush or floss, you may have ?gingivitis,? meaning you have infected and inflamed gums from toxic plaque and tartar entrapment in the gum crevices (pockets) around your teeth.
Left untreated, the pockets deepen and the bone recedes in an effort to move away from the toxins. Eventually the gum tissue recedes off the toxic buildup around your teeth as well. At that point the disease has progressed from gingivitis to ?periodontal disease.?
The infection and inflammation is due to bacteria? ?bugs? ? eating away at your tissues that anchor your teeth.? Left untreated, you will lose your teeth. Periodontal disease is the greatest cause of tooth loss after age 45.
With a deep cleaning called a ?scaling and root planing? you get all of the trapped bacteria, plaque and calcification cleaned out of gum pockets. This allows your gum tissue to reattach to the bone and teeth. A deep cleaning is one of the most therapeutic health treatments available.
Good gum health is a foundation of overall health. Stay ahead of the onset of gum disease with regular checkups and cleanings. Your checkups should periodically include a diagnostic procedure called ?perio-charting.? Your hygienist will measure the depth of gum pockets on both sides of each tooth. Regular perio-charting and x-rays allow you and your dental team to monitor changes in the health of your gum tissue and bone density and give you the peace of mind that you are preserving your teeth.
Missing tooth. When teeth are lost or extracted and not replaced, the bone that previously supported those teeth no longer serves a purpose and begins to deteriorate.
Research shows that when just one missing tooth isn?t replaced, up to twenty percent of adjacent teeth will be lost in the next 4 to 8 years.
As bone deteriorates, your teeth are not as securely anchored as they once were. Teeth begin to shift into the space left by the missing tooth. The burden of chewing is redistributed to the remaining teeth, often causing them to wear down prematurely. As teeth wear and become shorter, the nose and chin move closer together. Your chewing pattern alters. Your once defined jawline softens. Lips appear thinner, skin loosens around the mouth.
One missing tooth sets in place a chain of events that alters your smile, causes sagging in the face and affects your appearance. This is why a missing tooth should be replaced ? even when it?s in the back of the mouth.
?Periodontal disease or tooth loss, if left untreated, begin the silent progression of Oral Bone Loss.?
The placement of a dental implant soon after a tooth is missing halts progression of bone loss.
Osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a decrease in bone density that can affect any bone in your body, including the jawbone. Since women over forty are most susceptible, supplementation of calcium and Vitamin D is recommended by the North American Menopause Society.
Can oral bone loss be reversed?
Good oral hygiene, supplementation with calcium and vitamin D, a healthy diet, and a dental procedure called ?bone grafting? all help to restore bone loss and halt its progression.
Reduce your dental costs by adhering to the old adage, ?an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.? Implementing an at-home dental hygiene regimen, combined with regular dental checkups and cleanings, will spare much unwanted expense, time and pain. Your reward will be to preserve your facial structure and thus maintain a more youthful appearance.
Peter J Pagano, DDS