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Facial Aging After Tooth Loss
Tooth loss can make you look 10 years older! The resulting bone loss creates “sunken cheeks” and wrinkles. Imagine reaching your 50s, 60s, or older and discovering there was no option available to replace one, several, or all of your lost teeth?
The fact is that if all of your teeth are missing and not replaced, the lower one-third of your face can collapse, creating the effect that your chin is trying to touch your nose. For some folks, this is a nightmare come to life. Excessive bone loss due to gum diseases like periodontitis and teeth extractions means you may not be a candidate for crowns, fixed bridges, dental implants, partial dentures, or even complete dentures!
The problem is that limiting your tooth replacement options will lead to further bone loss and less comfortable choices.
Premature facial aging after tooth removal
Unfortunately, when permanent teeth are removed, the tooth and the tooth root are absent and there is no longer either any cheek and lip support or any bone stimulation for your jaw. Over a period of just one year, the jaw bone will shrink or resorb into the body and cause the lower face to sink in and change shape. This is known as premature facial aging.
Think prevention. Your jawbone, gums, and teeth help define your unique facial structure. Unreplaced tooth loss, and resulting bone loss, can alter your appearance and speech, erode your self-confidence, affect your diet and harm your health, and can also impair your social, personal and professional life.
We all know that changes occur naturally as a result of the aging process. However, when gums disease like periodontitis is ignored and lost teeth are not replaced, the process of bone loss and facial aging is grossly accelerated.
Whether a tooth is lost due to infection or injury, without natural chewing forces the bone in that area is no longer stimulated and begins to shrink almost immediately. Significant bone loss always occurs within the first year, which is why tooth replacement should not be delayed. Tooth loss, especially if the infection was involved, can result in 40% to 60% bone loss in a period of just two to three years.
Bone deterioration does not stop at the area underneath the missing tooth; it can progress to the bone under healthy teeth creating further tooth loss. Since the facial changes occur gradually, you may not notice them, but those around you may.
You can reduce bone loss and completely eliminate tooth loss. By focusing on prevention and working with an exceptional dental team, you can prevent the damaging effects of gum disease and decay. If you are about to lose a tooth or have a tooth to be extracted, there are a number of ways to prevent your jawbone – at the time of the extraction. If you have missing teeth in need of replacement, a dental team can discuss the many options that best suit your need.
Prevention is the key to avoiding the nightmare of unnecessary tooth loss and the damage it can do to your health, emotional well-being, and appearance.
What Causes Facial Collapse after tooth loss?
Several factors can cause facial collapse, the most significant of which is the simple passage of time. Starting at age 40, your upper lip drops down by about one millimeter each decade. That means that by age 70, your lip has dropped around three millimeters. It may not sound significant, but you’ll really notice a difference.
Tooth grinding, the condition is known as bruxism, also wears down the teeth and makes them look shorter. That puts the lower teeth closer to the nose, a factor that really ages your smile. Ever seen someone without their dentures? Facial collapse causes this on a smaller scale, evidenced by wrinkles in the corners of the mouth, loss of lip support, and overall shortening of the face to give an "aged" appearance.
Acid reflux and an acidic diet erode otherwise healthy tooth enamel, and tooth loss can also lead to facial collapse. When someone loses their back teeth it will give a "sunken in" appearance to their cheeks.
And with fewer teeth, each tooth that remains in your jaw receives more force. Want to understand how that works? Imagine the Dallas Cowboys offensive line. Now take out two of the lineman -- suddenly the running backs and quarterback to have to do some of the blocking. But Tony Romo wasn’t made to block! Before you know it, he’s injured, and your whole team is weaker because of it.
See how the front teeth are like little Tony Romos? When you take out your back teeth (your lineman), you expose those in the front to forces they were just not built to withstand. This leads to faster tooth wear and eventual tooth loss, which makes you look older and puts you on the path to needing full dentures.
How Dental Implants Can Prevent ‘Facial Aging’ after tooth loss
The face aging process isn’t necessarily kind to our appearance: hair color and texture change. Age spots creep up. Hair grows where it didn’t use to or thins out in unwanted spots. The skin wrinkles and sags.
While aging gracefully is something we should strive for, it doesn’t mean we’re necessarily thrilled with these changes. Eating a healthy diet and staying active is undoubtedly a good way to keep in shape and retain a more youthful ‘zest’ for life.
While that can help to keep some of the years at bay, some changes caused by the aging process can be avoided, such as wearing sunscreen to avoid age spots. Others can be avoided or halted including, facial aging.’ What is an aged face?
This describes changes to facial appearance when the bone structures that give our face its shape start to shrink. This is caused by the absence of tooth roots from the jaw bone. The stimulation normally provided to the jaw bone from tooth roots no longer exists when natural teeth are removed. This causes the bone to shrink, or ‘resorb.’
As the bone mass declines in height and thins out, changes in facial appearance slowly evolve. For example, as the jaw bone thins, deep wrinkles form around the mouth. Eventually, the corners of the mouth will turn down even in a smile. Jowls form on each side of the face as facial muscles detach from the shrinking bone structure.
As the jaw bone continues to shrink, the chin becomes more pointed and the nose seems to get closer to it. This leads to a collapsed mouth that is known as a ‘granny look.’ This look ages the appearance of an individual far beyond their actual years.
Among the many benefits of dental implants, they also provide stimulation to the jaw bone. This helps to halt the process of bone loss. For those who have already lost a great deal of bone loss, bone rebuilding procedures can be performed to restore a healthy, more youthful face shape.
Dental implants restore the ability to bite and chew comfortably and without worry. Because implants are placed in the jaw bone, this provides the same dependable foundation as you once enjoyed with natural teeth.
Unlike a denture, partial or crown-&-bridge combination, dental implants recreate the stimulation to the jaw bone it needs in order to maintain a healthy volume for lips and cheek support. People are often surprised to learn that the pressure from wearing a denture or partial actually contributes to the rate of bone loss. For those who sleep in their denture, the accelerates the pace even further.