Having to lose all of your teeth is unfortunate. But knowing ahead of time about facial collapse could prevent you from losing even more — your jawbone structure, your facial aesthetics, and your ability to eat comfortably.
What is Facial Collapse?
Facial collapse is the shriveling of the face that occurs as a result of bone resorption, the gradual process of deterioration that your jawbone undergoes in the absence of teeth. Bone resorption is an example of the “use it or lose it” principle at work. When the body senses that the jawbone is no longer being used to support teeth, it begins to resorb the bone so that the minerals can be repurposed elsewhere in the body. The jawbone models in the image at left show how the process of bone resorption leads to facial collapse over time. Once the teeth are removed — as depicted in the second model from the top — substantial bone loss occurs in just a few weeks. After that, bone resorption slows down, gradually moving through the progression you see in the third and fourth models. The bottom model shows what the jawbone looks like after 10 to 20 years without teeth, when the most advanced stage of facial collapse has been reached.
Negative Effects of Facial Collapse
Since your jawbone supports your facial structure, its deterioration has a profound effect on the appearance of your face. From the outside, facial collapse presents as a face that is shriveled, with sunken cheeks and a protruding chin. It causes you to look much older than you otherwise would. But more important than aesthetics are the functional effects of facial collapse. At advanced stages, removable dentures no longer have anything to hold them in place. This makes them so terribly uncomfortable that patients do not want to wear them anymore. When wearing dentures even just to eat becomes intolerable, the diet suffers, which in turn can have adverse effects on nutrition and health as well.
What to Do About Facial Collapse
The good news is that you can prevent bone resorption and facial collapse by replacing your teeth with dental implants. Even just a few implants that support a denture will protect the integrity of the jawbone surrounding the implants. For more information, see our pages on Dental Implants and Implant-Supported Dentures. Even if you’ve lost all of your teeth and facial collapse is already underway, bone grafting can be used to rebuild your jaw so that you can access the benefits of dental implants as well. At Park Family and Cosmetic Dentistry, we also offer oral surgery services, so you can receive bone grafting, implant surgery, and your brand new smile in one convenient location.