Bone loss is the decrease in bone supporting the roots of teeth which is a common result of gum disease.
Gum disease begins when plaque is not effectively removed by brushing and flossing. Plaque is composed of bacteria that can cause destruction to the gum connective tissue and the bone that joins our teeth to the jaw.
The process in which bone loss occurs is complicated but occurs because the bacteria from plaque produce toxins and enzymes under the gum-line causing a chronic infection. This infection causes the immune system to respond and the body releases chemical substances called cytokines. These cytokines in turn cause a cascade of reactions within the gum and surrounding tissue that causes the breakdown of the gum and bone.
The loss of gum and bone causes the formation of a periodontal pocket. The dentist can measure these pockets with a small probe to determine the extent of the disease. If the gums are allowed to remain irritated due to gum disease more severe consequences develop and the bone next to the inflamed gums will reabsorb or shrink away.
The damage caused by bone loss is irreversible and the bone will not usually grow back. If the bone loss continues and the tooth support is compromised the teeth become mobile and eventually are lost. This process is known as Periodontitis. This type of bone loss can be stopped through various periodontal treatments. However the best treatment is prevention.
Periodontitis can be prevented by keeping the plaque off the teeth and especially between the teeth and under the gums. In a healthy mouth proper daily brushing and flossing with regular dental cleanings is usually sufficient. Not only will good oral hygiene prevent Periodontitis but it will also work to prevent the entire host of dental problems caused by plaque
Bone loss is a major problem for dental patients who have had teeth extracted. When teeth are extracted the bone of the jaw continuously will wear away gradually causing the face to look older. Dental implants can help prevent the bone loss that follows the extraction of a tooth.