You likely don’t think about your jawbone very often, even though you use it daily to talk, eat, shout, and maybe even sing. But if jawbone health deteriorates, tooth loss, facial deformity, or even facial collapse could result.
Trauma, misalignment, developmental deformities, and tumors can all potentially lead to jaw deterioration, but tooth loss and periodontal disease (gum disease) cause the most common problems with jawbone health.
Primary Factors in Jawbone Health
Age, trauma, and general dental health can play a large role in determining the health of the jaw. When looking at bone loss and gum recession, our periodontal experts typically focus on tooth loss and signs of periodontitis. These root causes can worsen preexisting issues with the jawbone, or create new issues that can interfere with dental implants and overall dental health.
Just as muscle atrophies when it’s not used, healthy bone tissue depends on the use of your teeth to chew and bite. Bone recession can occur if you have missing teeth that you’ve not replaced with dentures or dental implants, since the part of the jawbone that usually receives stimulation will begin to break down. Unused bone will then be resorbed into the body.
The bacteria that accompanies periodontitis infects the gums and eventually destroys both jawbone material and the ligaments that connect the teeth to the bone. But periodontitis can also lead to gum recession, and when gum tissue pulls away from teeth, bacteria can find another pathway to spread infection and threaten the supporting bone.
If you have missing teeth, receding gums, or you’ve been diagnosed with gum disease, your doctor may recommend bone graft or gum graft surgery to protect your jawbone and restore oral health.
When You May Need a Dental Bone Graft
A bone graft may be necessary if you’re planning to replace a lost tooth with a dental implant. In order for a dental implant to be properly placed and maintained, the width and height of the bone must be able to support the implant.
Some procedures, such as All on 4 dental implants, can be performed even with bone loss, but other implant processes may necessitate a bone graph. Your periodontist will work with you to determine the best course of action for your individual needs.
Other reasons why someone would need a bone graft include:
- Bone structure maintenance after tooth extraction
- Facial balance restoration
- Aesthetic improvements to one’s smile
When You May Need a Gingival or Gum Graft
Gum recession means that gum tissue surrounding your teeth begins to pull away, exposing the root and leaving open pockets where bacteria can enter.
Common things that may cause your gums to recede:
- Aggressive brushing
- Hormonal changes
- Diabetes and other diseases
- Plaque buildup, which leads to gingivitis, and eventually periodontitis
Gum surgery isn’t the first course of treatment for receding gums. Your periodontist may prescribe medication if your condition is not too serious.
If you show signs of severe gum recession, your periodontist may suggest a gum graft, which will stop the gum recession and protect you from losing teeth or bone.
What Happens During a Gum Graft?
There are 3 types of gum graft procedures, and the doctor will determine which method best suits the patient. As with bone grafting, the patient will receive a local anesthetic to block out any pain:
- Connective-tissue graft - The doctor cuts a flap of skin at the roof of the mouth and removes tissue from under the flap (known as subepithelial connective tissue). This connective tissue will then be stitched to the gum tissue that surrounds the exposed tooth root.
- Free gingival graft - Tissue is removed directly from the roof of the mouth (not the underlying connective tissue) and then attached to the gum tissue in the treatment area. This type of graft is typically used for people with thin gums who need more tissue to enlarge them.
- Pedicle graft - For those who have enough gum tissue near the affected tooth, tissue can be taken near the treatment area and not from the roof of the mouth.
After the procedure, the patient will feel some soreness, but OTC anti-inflammatory medication should be adequate for reducing pain. The patient should follow a diet that includes soft, cool foods, and will be given special instructions for brushing and flossing. It should take about two weeks to heal from the surgery.
Contact Us to Learn More
If your gums are red, swollen, and tender, or you’re experiencing pain and sensitivity, it’s best to get a diagnosis and begin treatment as soon as possible. The specialists at Central Texas Periodontics have the experience and training to assess your condition and restore your dental health.