tooth loss

Understanding Tooth Loss and Your Oral Surgery Treatment Options

According to the American College of Prosthodontists, approximately 178 million Americans have lost at least one permanent tooth, with some 40 million of them having no teeth left at all. Tooth loss does more than create challenges in eating, smiling, and talking; it can also affect your overall health. Fortunately, oral surgery procedures such as dental implants can help you regain your smile and optimize your dental function permanently. Take a look at the causes and effects of tooth loss, along with the treatment options available from skilled oral surgeons.

 

Causes of Tooth Loss

People may lose teeth for a variety of reasons. Here are some of the most common issues that might cause you to lose one or more teeth.

  • Periodontal disease – Most cases of tooth loss stem from this preventable inflammatory gum condition. When food particles and saliva get stuck to the teeth around the gum line, bacteria flock to the resulting plaque as a food source. The immune system reacts to the bacteria by mounting an inflammatory response against it. Unfortunately, the inflammation damages the gum tissue surrounding the teeth and weakens the ligaments that hold the teeth in their sockets, potentially leading to tooth loss.
  • Acute injuries or tooth problems – A blow to the face from a fist, ball, auto accident, or other high impact can knock teeth out of their sockets. (Emergency dentists can sometimes reseat these knocked-out teeth and secure them in place until they heal.) A tooth fractured down to the root, erupted at an angle that threatens neighboring teeth, or decayed beyond all hope of repair might require extraction, leaving you with a gap in your smile.
  • Tobacco and alcohol use – Tobacco use not only increases your risk for periodontal disease but also reduces your body’s ability to fight off infections, including oral infections that threaten the stability of your teeth. Excessive alcohol consumption can leave you with a chronically dry mouth, reducing the saliva that normally coats the teeth and helps to safeguard them against catastrophic decay.
  • Underlying conditions – Untreated malnutrition, high blood pressure, diabetes, and even arthritis can make you more vulnerable to tooth loss.

 

How Tooth Loss Affects Facial Aesthetics and Your Health and Functionality

Missing teeth affect the aesthetics of not only our smile, but also of the facial contour and symmetry. Each tooth and tooth-root provide support to our jaw bones and facial muscles. Similar to how grasses at the beach provide anchor to sand, the roots of our teeth help to anchor bone. Missing roots eventually causes surrounding bone to melt away, causing facial structures to have a hollowed out look and show signs of premature ageing.

See our videos about this:

When you have missing teeth, you can’t chew food efficiently. Poor chewing function can make you prone to indigestion, malabsorption of nutrients, and other digestive complaints. You may also develop a heightened risk for gum disease that threatens not just your other teeth, but every system in your body, as bacteria migrate from your gums to major organs.

Tooth loss can affect your ability to talk clearly and smile with confidence in conversations. However, that gap in your smile may prove only the beginning of a more long-term change in your looks. Without constant stimulation from tooth roots, the bone in the jaw stops remodeling itself. The loss of bone density can reduce the height of your jaws, eventually giving your face a “collapsed” look.

 

How an Oral Surgeon Can Help You Deal with Tooth Loss

Adults who have lost teeth have traditionally done whatever they can to fill those gaps in their smile through dental restorations, from bridges that replace individual teeth to full upper and lower dentures. Unfortunately, these replacements have their limitations. For instance, a removable bridge or denture plate can feel loose in the mouth or even get dislodged, making chewing an adventure and threatening public embarrassment. More critically, bridges and dentures only restore the part of the teeth that used to sit above the gum line, not the root structures that anchored the natural teeth to the jawbone, so they can’t stop you from losing bone density.

Your oral surgeon can help you avoid these issues by performing dental implant surgery. Dental implants feature screw-like threaded metal posts capped with permanent crowns. Once the metal posts go into your jawbone, the bone responds by growing into(and in between) the posts’ threads, a phenomenon called osseointegration. This process takes a few months to complete, but you’ll end up with strong, tightly anchored artificial tooth roots that actually promote continuous bone remodeling. The oral surgeon will then add permanent crowns to the posts, giving you a beautiful smile and dental restorations you can rely on for decades to come.

If you have already lost some jawbone density from going without teeth, don’t panic. Your oral surgeon can often surmount this challenge as well by performing a bone graft. In this form of oral surgery, a small amount of organic or synthetic bone fills out the thin parts of the jawbone, providing the firm foundation your implants will require. Just keep in mind that you must heal completely from your bone graft before proceeding with the implant surgery.

Dental implant surgery can work equally well for you whether you seek to replace a single tooth or a whole mouthful of teeth. Oral surgeons can create entire denture plates that snap onto just a handful of implanted posts in the upper and/or lower jaw. You may hear this kind of restoration referred to as a four-on-one or six-on-one dental implant.

Don’t let tooth loss rob you of your ability to smile, talk, and eat with confidence. Contact Woodview Oral Surgery today to learn more about your dental restoration options!

 

Image credits: Photo by jeltevanoostrum on Pixabay.

Reconstructive Surgery

Cosmetic and Reconstructive Surgery: What Can An Oral Surgeon Do to Help?

The structures of your face and jaw perform a variety of functions. Ideally, the arrangement of bones and soft tissues allows you to eat, breathe, and talk effortlessly. These structures also provide your face with its characteristic contours and appearance. Whether an injury or medical condition has harmed these structures and reduced their functionality, or you simply would like to give your face a new, preferred look, you may see substantial benefits from cosmetic or reconstructive oral surgery. Let’s examine these forms of surgery to discover what an oral surgeon might do to give you a better quality of life.

 

Reconstructive Oral Surgery vs. Cosmetic Oral Surgery

The difference between reconstructive oral surgery and cosmetic oral surgery lies mainly in the result you wish to achieve. Reconstructive oral surgery focuses on procedures that correct damage and functional abnormalities. When expertly performed, reconstructive oral surgery can help you speak more clearly, chew more effectively, experience less pain or stiffness from structural alignment errors, or restore tissue lost in an accident or previous surgery.

Cosmetic oral surgery focuses on improving the aesthetics of your oral and facial structures. For example, an oral surgeon can change the shape or size of your jaw, bringing the jawbone forward or making it recede for a more attractive facial balance. An oral surgeon has the expertise to perform a variety of procedures to improve both the looks and the function of your teeth.

 

Conditions and Challenges Treated by Cosmetic and Reconstructive Oral Surgery

Depending on your individual needs, you may schedule either or both forms of oral surgery to address different conditions and challenges. Common problems tackled by reconstructive oral surgeons include:

  • Malocclusion (abnormal bite) – This problem typically stems from an abnormal jaw position and/or uneven tooth wear.
  • Diseased or impacted teeth – A hopelessly decayed, infected, or impacted tooth may threaten your comfort and health.
  • Broken or weakened teeth – Root canal therapy or tooth fractures can leave the affected teeth in a fragile state while making them vulnerable to future infections.
  • Palate issues – Deformities such as a cleft palate may call for surgical reconstruction.
  • Jaw or facial trauma – Auto accidents and other crises can shatter bones in your jaw and face, making normal jaw function impossible.

Cosmetic surgeons can address some of the same issues, assuming that those issues affect your appearance as well as your oral and dental function. These specialists typically deal with:

  • Chipped or broken teeth – Even if such teeth don’t suffer from any deeper damage or hurt your chewing ability, they may make you self-conscious to smile or talk in public.
  • Overbites and underbites – A misaligned jaw may make you unhappy with your looks, even when it doesn’t seriously affect your ability to speak or eat.
  • An oversized or undersized lower jaw – Even a perfectly aligned jaw may appear too prominent, or not prominent enough, for your taste.
  • Soft tissue abnormalities – If you have noticeable facial scars or missing facial tissue, you can have these issues cosmetically repaired.

 

Types of Oral Surgery Procedures

Modern medical techniques and technologies have opened the door to many kinds of cosmetic and reconstructive oral surgery procedures. Your oral surgeon may recommend and administer:

  • Dental implants, which replace missing teeth while helping to stimulate jawbone regeneration.
  • Bone grafts to help dental implants root themselves securely in the jaw.
  • Extractions of wisdom teeth or other problematic teeth.
  • Craniofacial surgery to reassemble broken facial bones or correct abnormal facial formation.
  • Orthognathic surgery to alter your jawbone structure.
  • Soft tissue trauma repair to fix lacerations, mend severed nerves, and reconnect or reroute damaged blood vessels.

 

A Whole New You

Oral surgery can improve your life in a variety of ways. On a purely functional, physical level, procedures that improve your chewing ability can help your digestive system break down food more efficiently, giving your body more of the nutrients it needs for optimal wellness. Surgery that addresses sinus or airway issues (including jaw alignment problems that may affect your breathing) can help you avoid or overcome potentially serious health risks. Psychologically, reconstructive or cosmetic oral surgery can help you feel less stress and self-consciousness, boosting your confidence to live the life you want to live.

 

What to Expect from Oral Surgery

Oral surgery procedures can vary widely in the amount of preparation and recovery that they involve. As a general rule, you and your oral surgeon should discuss your medical history, current medication list, and lifestyle factors that can influence the procedure’s success. If you smoke, you’ll need to kick the habit as far ahead of your surgery as possible, since smoking can slow healing.

Some oral surgeries such as tooth extractions require only sedation and a local anesthetic, while more extensive surgeries that rebuild portions of the face require general anesthesia and a hospital stay. During your recuperation, you may need to adhere to a soft diet and/or small meals. If your procedure requires the jaw to remain wired shut for a time, your oral surgeon will prescribe a liquid diet until the surgeon removes the wires.

Contact Woodview Oral Surgery to schedule a consult appointment, which is an in-depth analysis of your medical history and dental x-rays and is an opportunity to discuss with the Surgeon the treatment approaches.