We often associate missing teeth with a poor smile and bad facial aesthetics. Though this is true and affects the confidence level of the person with missing teeth there is more to it. Missing teeth cause gradual erosion of the jaw bones. This erosion can end in weakening the healthy teeth too. But how does missing teeth cause bone loss in the jaw?
For us to understand how missing teeth can cause jaw bone loss and eventually affect the other teeth too, we need to understand a bit more about our bones.
The role of jaw bones and how they are maintained by the body
The jaw bones have sockets that fit the teeth. Like any other bones of the body, they too are predominantly made of minerals like calcium and phosphorus. Bones are made of living cells and each cell of the bones has a life cycle. They form, live and then die, and this process is continuous. When the bone cells die, they dissolve or get resorbed by the body. New bone cells are formed in place of them. Chewing action or mastication of the jaw helps generate a kind of force or stimulation. This stimulus is created by the pressure exerted by the upper and lower teeth against each other as we chew. The roots of the upper and lower teeth are stimulated as we chew and in turn they cause the calcium mineral brought up by the saliva from the nutrition to be absorbed by the body only to remineralize the jaw bones. So in effect, the jaw bones are losing dead cells and are constantly being replaced by new ones. This is a cyclic process that happens in every healthy individual.
Missing Teeth and Fewer Stimuli
When teeth are missing, the chewing action cannot produce enough force or stimuli to the jaw bones. For example, if an upper tooth is lost, the lower tooth that resides directly do not have a tooth above to exert a stimulus. So the jaw bone area of the upper missing tooth receives no stimulus as a result. So when dead bone cells are removed by the body’s normal mechanism, remineralization does not happen as used to be in the jaw bone area of the upper missing tooth. So the jaw bones in the missing tooth area are lost. This process though gradual happens continuously unless the missing teeth issue is addressed.