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Healthy Bones And The Connection Between Dental Implants And Bone Loss

by Caitlin Obara

Dental implants and bone loss are very closely related. On the one hand, replacing missing teeth with implants can help prevent bone loss in the jaw. On the other hand, existing bone loss in the jaw can affect your jaw's ability to support dental implants. And as you age, it's inevitable that you will experience loss of bone density. So what can you do to ensure that the bone in your jaw stays as dense and healthy as possible?

Lifestyle Habits for Healthy Bones

The same things that keep the rest of your bones healthy can also help your teeth and jaws. You've probably heard that it's important to get plenty of calcium; you should also know that vitamin D is key to helping your body absorb the calcium you take in. Many dairy products naturally contain calcium and are fortified with vitamin D, and breakfast foods like cereal and yogurt are also good sources of both.

Exercise also helps slow bone loss, while smoking tobacco accelerates it. So by adding foods with calcium and vitamin D to your diet and keeping active, you can slow down the rate at which your bones lose density.

Replacing Missing Teeth Immediately

In the mouth, the roots of your teeth extend down into your jawbone. Like all living tissue, this bone is constantly regenerating throughout your life; osteoporosis and bone loss are a symptom of this regeneration slowing down as you age. But missing teeth also have a big effect on how well your jawbone regenerates.

When your teeth meet – such as during chewing – your teeth sends that sensation down through the roots and into your jawbone, signaling it to keep regrowing itself. This means that areas without teeth don't send this signal into the jaw, and the bone in those areas slows down its regrowth. Eventually new bone is produced more slowly than old bone is lost, and you lose bone density in your jawbone.

The sooner you replace missing teeth with implants, the sooner your jawbone starts receiving these signals again. Since dental implants, unlike bridges, contain artificial roots that penetrate down into the jawbone, they act like natural teeth when it comes to stimulating the bone and preventing bone loss.

Bone Grafts

What if you have missing teeth and want dental implants to prevent bone loss – but your bone has already lost density and can't support implants? That's where bone grafts come in. Usually, the material for the graft is taken from elsewhere in your body, although donor material can also be used. Unlike transplants, your body doesn't require an immunosuppressant to accept new bone; instead, it is accepted into your existing bone material, fusing with it and becoming indistinguishable from your natural bone.

By building up the jawbone this way, a good base for dental implants can be created; then those same implants can help keep the jawbone healthy. So don't assume, if you've had teeth missing for a long period of time or have otherwise weakened bones, that implants can't work for you – discuss it with a dentist, like Dr. James Oline, and see what your options are.