I am often asked about the progression of bone loss with missing teeth, partials and complete dentures. Patients are also curious about how dental implants stop and prevent the progression of bone loss in the jaws.
Bone is stimulated, strengthened and continually renewed directly by a tooth or an implant. A physiologist’s discovery in the 1800’s that bone is remodeled along the line of force, is called Wolfe’s law. Teeth and implants provide this direct stimulation which develops stronger bone around them.
How do dentures and partials affect the bone differently? A 1970 research study of 1,012 patients by Dr. Jozewicz, at the Medical Academy of Lodz in Poland, showed denture wearers had a significantly higher rate of bone loss. That was confirmed by a 25-year-long study published in 1972 by Dr. Antje Tallgren, at the Royal Dental College in Denmark. She found that denture wearers have continual bone loss over the years. The biting force on the gum tissue irritates the bone and it melts away decreasing in volume and density.
In fact, a dramatic amount of bone loss within the first year after a tooth is removed was found by Dr. Carlsson in his 1967 study. He learned that bone loss continued over the over the years, even without a denture or partial.
The longer people are missing teeth, wear dentures or partials, the less jaw bone they have. What does that mean for patients? Over time, they can’t chew food as well. Not only does that reduce their quality of life, but it also becomes increasingly noticeable in their appearance as the lower third of their faces collapses, making them appear older than they really are.
This severe bone loss causes a 10-fold decrease in chewing force. This results in fifty percent of denture and partial wearers avoiding many foods, usually the healthier ones. Food collecting under the appliance takes the pleasure out of eating so they limit their grocery and restaurant choices to what they can easily chew. There are several reports that correlate the ability to chew with the quality and length of peoples lives.
Dental implant studies from 1977 by Dr. Branemark at the Osseointegration Centre’ in Gothenburg, Sweden and hundreds of others show dental implants stop this progressive loss, and stabilize the bone over the long term. I have placed thousands of dental implants since 1986 and consistently see how implanted teeth provide an effective tooth replacement that feels natural and stabilizes the bone. They also provide an improved ability to chew comfortably and for those missing many teeth an improved sense of well being. Hence dental implants have become the Standard of Care for replacing missing teeth in dentistry.
As an 80 year old patient of mine that got implants to replace missing teeth said; “They are just like my real teeth, I can eat anything I want.”