The alveolar bone
The bone surrounding the teeth is called alveolar bone. Its main job is to support the teeth and provide a heavy-duty foundation for tooth roots. Normal mouth function maintains bone health. As you chew, it stimulates bone cells to consistently produce new bone.
What can cause alveolar bone loss?
When a tooth is taken out, the bone at the extraction site is no longer required.
It’s not just that the root is gone, the forces of chewing no longer stimulate the bone at that site. First, the bone gets narrower. Then it gets shorter.
Studies have shown that a substantial amount of alveolar bone loss can transpire within six weeks after an extraction.
Gingivitis is not just a problem with the soft tissues. The infection caused by periodontitis (advanced gum disease) can destroy alveolar bone. Advanced periodontal disease can result in the loss of teeth. The rate of bone loss caused by periodontal disease may be accelerated when the tooth roots are gone.
What if I can’t get an implant immediately after a tooth extraction?
If you plan to get a tooth implant after having a tooth extracted, it’s best to do it as soon as your implant dentist counsels. Bone recedes quickly.
Some implant dentists use socket preservation grafts. With this service, your dentist fills the extraction socket with bone grafting material. The grafting material should start integrating with the surrounding bone. This won’t halt all bone loss, but it may slow it down.
Dentures don’t preserve alveolar bone
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 25% of adults over 65 have no natural teeth. Many men and women with missing teeth or no teeth at all choose dentures. This is understandable. It’s challenging to eat and speak with no teeth in the mouth. And nobody wants a toothless mouth.
It’s important to understand, however, that dentures don’t replace the roots of the missing teeth and they don’t preserve alveolar bone. Dental implants are the only tooth replacement option that helps preserve jawbone structure.