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Updated on September 6, 2022

Bone Loss in Teeth: Symptoms, Causes & Treatments

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Bone Loss in Teeth

Bone loss is an unfortunate reality for many people. It happens when the gums and bone surrounding the teeth start to shrink.

Several factors, including tooth extraction, orthodontic complications, infection, and disease, can result in dental bone loss. 

The bone loss process occurs when the cells that create new bone (osteoblasts) don't receive enough stimulation to rebuild and strengthen the jawbone. 

Fortunately, there are ways to slow down bone loss in teeth. Maintaining good oral hygiene and a healthy diet are two ways to keep your jaw bones strong.1

Man having toothache and sitting on dental chair

Common Symptoms

The most common symptom of bone loss is tooth mobility. This means that your teeth may feel loose or shift in your mouth. Other symptoms can include:2

What Causes Bone Loss?

Bone loss occurs when the cells that create new bone (osteoblasts) no longer receive enough stimulation.

Normally, pressure on the teeth from chewing, biting, and talking triggers osteoblasts to rebuild bone. However, if the stimulation stops because of tooth loss, cells called osteoclasts break down the bone to use elsewhere.

Tooth loss is usually the main trigger for bone resorption. However, certain conditions increase the risk of bone loss in teeth:3

Periodontal Disease

In cases of advanced gum disease, bacteria begin to eat away the bone surrounding the teeth and periodontal ligaments that hold teeth in place. If left untreated, this infection leads to a loss of tissue, bone, and teeth.

Periodontal disease also strains the immune system because of chronic inflammation.

Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a condition that causes bones to become weak and brittle. It can affect all bones in the body, including the jawbone. 

It often affects women after menopause but can occur in anyone at any age. People with chronic calcium deficiency, low levels of sex hormones, and thyroid problems are more likely to develop osteoporosis.

Trauma

Injury and irritation of the facial bones can negatively affect bone cell activity and reduce bone regrowth. For example, a bad fall, car accident, or sporting injury could damage the bones in the face, leading to bone loss.4

Continually grinding your teeth (bruxism) can also stress the jaw and traumatize the teeth, resulting in bone resorption.

Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Disorder

The TMJ connects the jawbone to the skull. If the joints don't fit properly into the sockets, it strains the surrounding muscles and ligaments. Even a slightly uneven pressure can lead to worn-down teeth and bone loss.

Bruxism can lead to TMJ disorder, as can arthritis, stress, and jaw injury.

Smoking

Smoking is a major risk factor for gum disease. It also reduces the effectiveness of many types of dental procedures, such as gum treatment and implants. 

How to Prevent Bone Loss in Teeth

The best way to prevent bone loss is to maintain good oral hygiene. Brush teeth for 2 minutes twice daily with a fluoridated toothpaste. Clean between them with dental floss, interdental brushes, or a WaterPik

As part of your oral health routine, it’s also important to go in for regular dental check-ups every 6 months. Your dentist will clean your teeth and remove hardened tartar and plaque. They will also assess your dental health, identify any problems, and treat them before they become serious.5

How to Slow Down Bone Loss in Teeth

Bone loss is a natural process that happens with age. However, if it’s due to tooth loss, injury, or disease, the following tips may help prevent it:1

Replace Missing Teeth

Without the pressure and stimulation from chewing and other movements, your body doesn't create new bone. Therefore, it's important to replace any missing teeth as soon as possible.

Dental implants have a titanium post placed below the gum line, mimicking natural tooth roots. Bone cells reattach to the titanium and rebuild the jawbone.

Gingivitis Treatment

An accumulation of plaque causes gingivitis. It leads to gum inflammation and is the first stage of gum disease. At this point, it's usually reversible. However, without treatment to remove the build-up of plaque, it will progress.

Depending on the extent of gingivitis, your dentist may recommend scaling and root planing. This involves cleaning and smoothing beneath the gum line to prevent bacteria from sticking at the tooth’s root. 

Bone Grafting

If you have significant bone loss, your dentist may recommend bone grafting. This surgical procedure replaces lost bone and encourages the jaw to regenerate new bone cells.

Dentists typically perform bone grafting for people with periodontal disease and other medical conditions such as tumors or cysts. 

Lifestyle Changes

Bone loss happens with osteoporosis and periodontal disease. Both conditions share similar risk factors, including:

  • Age
  • Genetics
  • Hormonal changes
  • Smoking
  • Calcium and vitamin D deficiency

You can control some of these risk factors by making lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking and addressing vitamin deficiencies.

Nourishing your body with foods rich in vitamins, calcium, and other essential minerals helps maintain bone health. The National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF) specifically recommends:6

  • Dairy products, including milk, yogurt, and cheese
  • Sardines and salmon with bones
  • Spinach, collard greens, kale, and other leafy green vegetables
  • Tomatoes, potatoes, sweet potatoes, broccoli, and red peppers
  • Papaya, pineapples, bananas, and oranges

Additionally, hormone replacement therapy after menopause may help reduce the risk of bone loss.

What’s the Outlook for Teeth With Bone Loss?

The outlook for teeth with bone loss depends on the severity of the damage. However, there are various ways to save teeth before the damage becomes irreversible.

In some cases, your dentist can treat the underlying cause and stop bone loss progression. Proper periodontal therapy combined with good oral hygiene can often eradicate gum disease and even regrow some of the lost bone.

If you have significant bone loss, your dentist can use regenerative bone grafting to supplement the bone surrounding your teeth. This allows the surgeon to place dental implants to replace and restore missing or lost teeth.

What Happens if You Don't Treat Bone Loss?

Failing to treat bone loss can mean losing more teeth. Additionally, bone loss can be painful and may require corrective surgery. Without treatment, bone loss may progress and can eventually lead to more serious health problems.

Early diagnosis and treatment are essential for tooth preservation and for preventing further damage.

Summary

Bone loss in teeth is a serious dental condition. It usually happens when gum disease, trauma, or osteoporosis lead to tooth loss. As a result, the cells that make new bone do not receive pressure stimulation from chewing and speaking, and boss loss occurs.

Preventing bone loss is possible by practicing good oral hygiene, seeing a dentist regularly, maintaining a healthy diet, and quitting smoking. It's also important to replace any missing teeth as soon as possible.

6 Sources Cited
Last updated on September 6, 2022
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
  1. "How to slow down bone loss in teeth.” Soft Touch Dental.
  2. "Stop dental bone loss in teeth Midtown Atlanta & Roswell.” Atlanta Center for Advanced Periodontics.
  3. What are the causes behind the dental bone loss?” Dental Wellness Group.
  4. Osipov, B., et al. "Systemic bone loss after fracture." Clinical reviews in bone and mineral metabolism, 2018.
  5. "Home oral care." The American Dental Association, 2020.
  6. Food and your bones — Osteoporosis nutrition guidelines.” Bone Health and Osteoporosis Foundation.
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