When you have lost all of your teeth, your body will begin to absorb the minerals in your jaw. When this process is not corrected, it leads to a condition called facial collapse. This condition will make you look much older than you really are. But there are other, more serious, health consequences. Fortunately, facial collapse can be prevented.
The Process of Facial Collapse
Facial collapse is a slow process. It can take ten to twenty years to develop. Because of this, some dentists don’t disclose it as a side effect of removing all of the teeth. In addition to making you look older, facial collapse can make it impossible to chew efficiently with dentures. Once your jawbone recedes, there is nothing to support a denture.
The photo on the left represents the stages of facial collapse. In the first model, the teeth are still present, anchoring the jawbone. When the teeth are first removed, the body absorbs quite a bit of bone in just a few weeks. The second model shows this loss. The bone loss then slows down, and ten or twenty years may pass before the jawbone atrophies completely, as shown in the fourth model.
Addressing Facial Collapse
Until recently, there was no solution to facial collapse. It was simply an inevitable consequence of removing the teeth for dentures. The advent of dental implants has changed that. Implants serve the same purpose as natural tooth roots. They extend into the jaw bone to anchor the tooth. At the same time, they anchor the jawbone itself. The body will not absorb the bone in the area of an implant.
More implants will preserve more of your bone, but some patients need a more economical solution. The good news is that a denture arch can be anchored by as few as two implants. And once those implants are in place, you can always get more. Even if you are already experiencing facial collapse, a surgical procedure called bone grafting can build up your jawbone enough to receive implants.