Thirty percent of the adult U.S. population has missing teeth. The teeth and surrounding upper and lower jawbone help support the muscles of the face. When teeth are lost, it is not just the teeth gone but the bone as well and the majority of the time the bone loss continues. Lost teeth and bone can ultimately have a great impact on the appearance of the face; causing thin lips, facial wrinkles, and a pointy nose and chin. Jawbone loss can usually be prevented. There are several causes: destruction of bone from tumors, trauma, infections, tooth extraction, and pressure. Tumors and trauma are relatively rare and the others more common. Infections in bone are most commonly caused by gum disease or tooth abscesses. If not treated, the bone slowly dissolves and teeth are lost. After a tooth is extracted 40 to 60 percent of the surrounding bone is lost. As more teeth are lost, more bone is lost. The type of tooth replacement will determine future bone loss. Any replacement that is removable such as full or partial dentures will cause pressure resorption. Fixed bridges, which are attached to adjacent teeth and implants, will prevent loss of bone from pressure resorption. As bone of the upper and lower jaws dissolve, muscles of the face lose support allowing wrinkles to deepen, the corners of the mouth turn down and the facial height decreases causing the nose and chin to become pointy.
Preventing and treating gum disease and tooth abscesses, preventing loss of teeth and replacing missing teeth with fixed bridges or dental implants will help prevent bone loss and facial collapse.