Jaw Bone Loss and Deterioration


Your bones frequently remold themselves as you age. This is a healthy process that removes and replaces bone as needed. But when bone is removed faster than it can be replaced, deterioration occurs and can make your jawbone more susceptible to fractures and breakage.
This can happen in the upper (maxilla) or lower (mandibular) jawbone.

Jawbone loss typically occurs as a result of tooth loss or other factors that lead to the absence of teeth in the jawbone.

This deterioration can have several negative consequences. It can affect the stability and retention of dental prostheses like dentures or dental implants, as there may be insufficient bone to support these devices. Additionally, the loss of jawbone can alter the facial structure and appearance, leading to a sunken or aged appearance.


  • Adjustment in your facial structure or bite
  • Distortion of facial features
  • Gum recession
  • Pain when chewing
  • Wrinkles begin to form around your mouth
  • Shifting of your teeth
  • Headaches, facial pain, and jaw pain
  • Limited lip support
  • Difficulty speaking


Several factors can contribute to bone loss in the jaw. Here are some common causes:

Tooth Extractions

The most common cause of jawbone loss is tooth extraction, wether that be intentional or accidental.

The jawbone is preserved through activities like chewing and biting. When an adult tooth is removed and not replaced, jaw bone deterioration begins. In the first year after tooth extraction 25% of bone is lost, and this bone loss continues with time. When teeth are missing, the alveolar bone, or the portion of the jaw bone that anchors the teeth in the mouth, no longer receives the necessary stimulation and begins to break down, or resorb. The body no longer uses or needs the jaw bone, so it deteriorates.

Teeth Grinding

Chronic tooth grinding, also known as bruxism, or habitual teeth grinding or clenching, can exert excessive pressure on the teeth and jawbone, potentially leading to bone loss over time.

Periodontal Disease

Also known as gum disease, periodontal diseases are ongoing infections of the gums that cause damage to the soft tissue and bone that support your teeth. Plaque-induced inflammatory lesions make up the majority of periodontal issues and are divided into two categories: gingivitis and periodontitis. Even though gingivitis is the less serious disease, it always precedes periodontitis.


Dental plaque is the primary cause of gingivitis. Plaque is a sticky colorless film that adheres to your teeth at and below the gum line. When daily teeth brushing and flossing is neglected, the plaque can harden and cause your gums to become inflamed, red, swollen, and bleed easily.


Periodontitis is affected by bacteria that adheres to the tooth’s surface, along with an overly aggressive immune response to these bacteria. If left untreated, gingivitis can progress to periodontitis. In periodontitis, the inflammation spreads below the gum line and affects the tissues and bone that support the teeth. The body’s immune response against the bacterial infection can lead to the breakdown of the gum tissue, the formation of pockets between the gums and teeth, and ultimately, bone loss in teeth.

Dentures or Bridgework

Wearing anchored dentures may increase the rate at which the bone deteriorates. This type of denture is placed on top of the gum line, but does not provide any direct stimulation to the underlying alveolar bone. With time, the bone deteriorates due to lack of stimulation and causes loosening of the dentures and problems eating and speaking. If your dentures begin to loosen, they might require refitting.

However, Some dentures preserve the bone because they are supported by anchors, which stimulate the alveolar bone.

Bone loss can occur with bridgework because the portion of the bridge that spans the gap where the teeth are missing receives no direct stimulation from chewing.

By completing a bone graft procedure, Dr. Bauer is now able to restore bone function and growth, thereby halting the effects of poor denture care.

Facial Trauma

When facial trauma occurs, like when a tooth is severely damaged or knocked out and no biting surface remains, it results in jaw bone loss. 

A bone grafting procedure provides the opportunity to not only replace bone where it is missing, but also the ability to promote new bone growth in that location. This process will reverse the effects of bone deterioration, restoring function and promoting new bone growth in traumatized areas.


Jaw misalignment can create situations where some teeth no longer have opposing tooth structure. Over time, bone deterioration can occur where the bone is losing stimulation. Issues such as TMJ problems, normal wear-and-tear, and lack of treatment can also contribute to jaw bone deterioration.


Osteomyelitis, a type of bacterial infection in the jawbone (maxilla and mandible) and its bone marrow, leads to inflammation, which can result in blood loss to the bone. Treatment for osteomyelitis generally requires antibiotics and the removal of the affected bone. 


Large benign facial tumors might need to be removed. Although they are generally not life-threatening, they can be aggressive enough to invade nearby tissue and bone, repositioning teeth, and causing long-term damage to your face and neck.

Cancerous tumors typically spread through the jaw and require removal of the affected section.

Jawbone reconstruction is usually required in both cases to restore proper functionality. Bone grafting is a treatment option for both, but may be more challenging in patients with malignant tumors because treatment of the cancerous tumor generally requires removal of the surrounding soft tissues.

Developmental Deformities

Jawbone loss can occur due to developmental deformities (birth defects) resulting in missing portions of teeth, facial bones and skull.

Sinus Deficiencies

The bones in your face and jaw help to keep your teeth in place. When molars from the top of your mouth are removed, air pressure from the air cavity in your sinus causes resorption of that bone. Sinuses then become enlarged over time and result in insufficient bone.


Preventing jawbone loss is important, and early intervention is key. Fortunately, bone loss in the jaw can be reversed after its deterioration. Oral & Facial Surgery of Pittsburgh provides treatment options that help a patient to eat and speak clearly.

Options for reversal include:

Bone grafting – The most common treatment for jawbone atrophy is a bone graft. This procedure can repair sites with inadequate bone structure due to previous extractions, gum disease, or injuries. It also provides the opportunity to place dental implants and restore functionality and aesthetic appearance where it was not previously possible.

Sinus lift Our surgeons can lift the sinus cavity by positioning its membrane lining away from the jaw and introducing bone graft material into the area. This enables dental implants to be placed and institute bone growth.

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