Did you know that bone loss in the jaw is a common problem? In fact, it’s estimated that around two-thirds of adults will experience some form of bone loss in the jaw during their lifetime. This can cause several problems, including tooth loss, gum disease, and even facial collapse. In this blog post, we’ll discuss detecting, preventing, and treating bone loss in jaw.
- What is bone resorption?
- Why do we experience bone loss?
- What are the causes of it?
- What are the symptoms of jaw bone resorption?
- Jaw Bone Loss: What are the effects?
- How is bone loss in the jaw detected?
- Jaw bone loss: Prevention
- Treatment of Jaw Bone Loss
- Are there any medications I can take to prevent bone resorption?
- Are there any risks associated with treatment for bone resorption?
- What are the long-term effects of untreated or unsuccessfully treated bone resorption?
What is bone resorption?
Bone resorption is the natural process of bone metabolism, which is the breakdown of bone tissue. This normal physiological process maintains bone remodeling and helps to regulate calcium levels in the body. It occurs when specialized cells, called osteoclasts break down bone tissue and dissolve the bone matrix. Our bones continually rebuild themselves throughout our lives, eliminating old bone (resorption) and adding new bone where needed (ossification).
Why do we experience bone loss?
This is a natural process that is beneficial to your oral health and overall well-being. However, if the breakdown of bone occurs at a faster pace than it can be replenished, it can lead to a loss in bone density and increase your risk of fractures and breaks. This problem is more likely to impact your jawbone in your mouth.
We’ll explain what causes this imbalance and weakening of your jawbone, as well as how you may collaborate with your dentist to discover a therapy that keeps you smiling.
What are the causes of it?
A few different factors can contribute to bone loss in the jaw. One of the most common is tooth loss, which can create a situation where the bone isn’t being used and starts to deteriorate. Other causes of bone loss in the jaw can include:
- Chewing tobacco
- Poor nutrition
- Certain diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis or osteoporosis
- Periodontal disease, particularly periodontitis (severe gum disease)
What are the symptoms of bone resorption?
For some, losing bone density in the jaw is quite unnoticeable at first. But as the bone resorption abnormally increases, you may notice discomfort. The most common symptom of bone resorption is bone pain. You may experience pain in the jawbone, especially when you chew or bite down on something. Other symptoms can include:
- Formation of wrinkles around the mouth
- Difficulty speaking
- Loosening of natural teeth
- Lips sinking inward
- Jaw stiffness
- Hearing loss or ringing in your ears
If bone resorption occurs too quickly, it can have a negative impact on your oral and overall health. If not treated, there may be a breakdown of bone tissue that leads to bone pain and tenderness, infection, or missing teeth (tooth loss.)
Jaw Bone Loss: What are the effects?
In addition to the symptoms listed above, jawbone loss can induce tooth loss and make it difficult or impossible to provide replacement teeth (implants, removable bridges, or dentures) without first having a bone transplant performed by an oral surgeon.
Jawbone loss can also cause facial collapse, a condition in which your mouth seems to sink back into your face, your chin becomes more pointed, and your facial muscles weaken. This will result in early wrinkling around your mouth and lip thinning. All of these changes combine to make you look older than you are.
How is bone resorption detected?
Dental providers can detect bone loss in the jaw through a series of dental exams and tests. Your dentist will likely start by checking for any changes in your bone structure and density. He or she may also order a bone mineral density (BMD) test to get a more accurate measure of bone loss. This test uses a special type of X-ray to measure the amount of bone in your jaw.
If bone resorption is suspected, your dentist may also order a computed tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan to get a more detailed view of the bone in your jaw. With bone imaging technologies, your doctor can look for bone loss while you’re still in the early stages.
Jaw bone loss: Prevention
Prevention of bone resorption is always better than restoring bone density later on. This means it’s important to pay attention to what you eat and how you brush your teeth.
To prevent bone resorption, it’s important to have recommended preventive care. Be sure to brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes at a time with fluoride toothpaste, floss daily, and visit your dentist regularly for checkups. You’ll also need to maintain good bone density by eating foods rich in calcium and vitamin D. These bone-boosting nutrients can be found in bone-healthy foods such as:
- Leafy greens, like kale and collard greens
- Salmon (with bones)
- Nuts, especially almonds and cashews
Treatment of Jaw Bone Loss
If you’re experiencing bone loss in your jaw, it’s important to seek treatment as soon as possible. Your dentist will work with you to develop a treatment plan that can help prevent the bone loss from progressing and restore bone density. Treatment options may include:
Dental implants are often used to treat jaw bone loss. This is because dental implant placement provides a stable base for artificial teeth, which can help keep the bone and remaining teeth healthy and strong. Implants function not only as teeth replacements, but they can also stimulate the bone and restore your jaw’s natural balance of osseointegration and resorption. If you’re considering dental implants to treat bone loss in your jaw, be sure to talk to your dentist about your options.
According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, bone loss in the jaw can be reversed using one of the most popular bone augmentation procedures called bone grafting. This bone restoration technique involves removing a small amount of bone from another part of the patient’s body and implanting it in the jaw to prevent bone resorption that causes bone loss.
During this procedure, bone graft material is used to restore bone volume, bone height, and bone curvature that has been lost due to bone resorption. Bone grafts are often bone material taken from the patient’s own body or donated bone tissue. It can be as simple as taking a piece of bone from your iliac crest, which is the bone at the top of your pelvic bone, and implanting it where the bone is needed.
Another bone augmentation treatment is called guided bone regeneration (GBR). This procedure uses bone grafts placed into the jaw after surgical exposure of the jaw bone surface has been obtained. Once the bone graft has become osseous (that is, bone has formed), the bone is connected to the adjacent bone that was exposed surgically.
Removing diseased bone
Various diseases, including cancer, can cause bone loss in the jaw. If bone loss is detected early, your dentist may be able to treat the disease and stop bone loss from progressing. Treatment options for the bone disease may include:
- Removing the diseased bone
- Radiation therapy
- Targeted drug therapy
Alternatively, you might have a bone biopsy to further analyze diseased bone tissue.
Each of these treatments aims to stop bone loss and restore bone density. Treatment will vary depending on the cause of bone loss, so it’s important to seek dental care as soon as possible if you experience any symptoms.
Are there any risks associated with treatment for bone resorption?
There are risks associated with both bone grafting and GBR procedures. These include:
- Nerve damage
- Sinus problems
- Tooth loss
- Tooth decay
- Death of bone cells, which means the bone doesn’t heal properly
Are there any medications I can take to prevent bone resorption?
If you’re experiencing bone loss in your jaw, your dentist may recommend taking calcium supplements to help strengthen the bone. Calcium is a mineral essential for bone health, and it can help prevent bone loss and bone fractures. Be sure to talk to your dentist about the best way to get enough calcium in your diet. You may need to take calcium supplements to ensure you’re getting enough of this important mineral.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved bisphosphonates as an osteoporosis treatment for postmenopausal women over 50. According to a study conducted by Rush University Medical Centre, bone disease sufferers who underwent bisphosphonate therapy experienced a significant increase in bone volume and bone mineral density. This is because bisphosphonates slow down bone resorption and help to balance bone remodeling.
There are also medications that bone disease sufferers can use to stimulate bone formation. These include teriparatide, a type of bone-building hormone that encourages bone formation and bone mass building, as well as denosumab, which is an injectable drug designed to prevent bone loss.
Certain types of osteoporosis drugs have been associated with an increased risk of two rare but serious problems — osteonecrosis of the jaw and an unusual type of fracture in the upper thigh bone (femur). As with all medications, you and your health care provider should discuss the benefits of the medications to lower the risk of broken bones and their resulting disability, along with the side effects and these rare complications. For most patients with osteoporosis, the benefits far exceed the risk of these two rare complications.
What are the long-term effects of untreated or unsuccessfully treated bone resorption?
The long-term effects of untreated bone resorption can include bone recession, bone fractures, and an overall decrease in bone mass. If bone loss is left untreated, it may eventually lead to bone disease. Bone disease can cause extreme pain and make it difficult to chew or speak. The bone disease may require surgery to remove the diseased bone in some cases. So it’s important to seek treatment for bone resorption as soon as possible to prevent long-term health complications.
Thank you for reading this blog post on the causes, prevention, and treatment of jaw bone loss. If you or a family member are experiencing these symptoms and you have further questions, we advise you to seek the help and guidance of your trusted dentist.