At Desert Family Dental, we are committed to treating all aspects of your dental health. This includes understanding how every condition can affect your future wellness and appearance. One condition that affects the oral and overall health of every denture wearer is facial collapse.

This condition develops with patients who have lost all their teeth. As the body senses that the teeth are no longer needed, it begins to reabsorb the supporting jaw bone tissue, so the minerals can be used to benefit other areas of the body. As patients’ jawbones shrink, their faces take on a sunken-in appearance, making them appear much older than they might otherwise look.

Who Is At Risk?

Any untreated tooth loss will lead to some degree of bone loss in the jaw. When all teeth are lost, as is the case with denture wearers, the jawbone will slowly deteriorate over the span of approximately 10-20 years. The process may be gradual, but it is inevitable and irreversible—once the bone is lost it will never grow back on its own.

What Causes Facial Collapse?

We think of our bones as being a rigid, permanent foundation for our bodies, much like a wooden frame on which a house is built. But the truth is that our bones are always in a state of remodeling. Throughout our lives, bone tissue is constantly being formed or re-absorbed (resorption) to best balance our physical activity levels with the minerals present in our body. In childhood, bone formation exceeds resorption to help small bones get bigger and stronger as we grow; during adulthood, bone formation and resorption are mostly in balance. As we age, however, more bone tissue is resorbed than formed—which can contribute to conditions such as osteoporosis and facial collapse.

The human body is very efficient at using its resources where they are needed the most. Certain cues signal where bone tissue should be built and maintained. When those cues are missing, bone degeneration will ensue. For example, in the root of each tooth are ligaments that are stimulated each time you bite and chew solid food, such as apples and crunchy vegetables. Those ligaments tell your body that your teeth are still needed, and prompt it to continue making the bone tissue in your jaw to support those teeth.

When tooth loss requires a patient to begin wearing dentures, the process of bone loss in the lower jaw will inevitably start. Dental ligaments will no longer be stimulated by the roots of your teeth, so the body will stop sending bone-supporting minerals to the jaw. It may take many years to reach the peak of its effects, but jawbone deterioration is guaranteed to happen to every denture wearer.

What are the Risks?

As the lower jawbone deteriorates, it becomes increasingly difficult to keep dentures in place and chew food. The dentures will need periodic re-fitting, and every increment of bone loss will make it that much harder to use the dentures efficiently and comfortably. Many patients develop mouth ulcers and sore spots, and the whole process of chewing becomes painful and unwieldy. An increase in mouth irritation can also put a patient at greater risk of developing oral cancer.

Facial Collapse Can Be Prevented

As part of your body’s natural balancing of resources, bone resorption cannot be stopped—but facial collapse can be prevented with dental implants.

Implants may not be made of natural tooth, but their presence in the jaw stimulates the dental ligaments enough to tell your body to keep supporting the jaw with bone tissue. After a titanium implant is set into your jawbone, bone tissue will continue to grow around the implant indefinitely.

If you already suffer from facial collapse, you may not have enough bone left to hold an implant in place—in which case Dr. Scott Lee can perform a bone graft to build up your bone density. After the new bone tissue is integrated, dental implants can be placed, preventing facial collapse and stabilizing your dentures.

For more information on how dental implants can prevent and repair facial collapse in Mesa, Arizona, please give us a call at (480) 838-4185. Our dentists are truly committed to helping you in any way we can.