I went to see a new dentist the other day. I hadn’t seen anyone in a while, and I thought I’d better go. This new guy said he wants to pull all my teeth and give me dentures. But I heard that if you get dentures your face will collapse. Is that true? What do you think I should do?
We’ll get to a full explanation of facial collapse in a moment, but we should address a more immediate question first. Why does your dentist want to pull all of your teeth? You didn’t mention his reason, but this is the first question that should come up for you. It is almost always better to save as much tooth structure and as many teeth as possible. So you may want to pursue that question with him, and if you are not getting a clear answer, you may want to consult a periodontist who is trained to deal specifically with the gum disease that can lead to tooth loss.
Once you clear up that question, you may still decide that having your teeth pulled to get dentures is the only solution. If that is the case, you’ll want to know about facial collapse, which is a long-term side effect of losing all or most of your teeth.
The drawing above shows the characteristic collapse of the facial structure that we see in facial collapse. Not only does facial collapse make people look many years older than they are, there are more serious consequences.
Your teeth are attached to your jawbone by their roots and by ligaments. Once they are extracted, your body begins to dissolve the minerals that make up the jawbone to use somewhere else in the body.
This process progresses quickly immediately after the tooth is removed and then slows down, taking ten to twenty years to develop fully. The illustration to the above shows how the jawbone shrinks over the years. And you can see, in the top jaw, the teeth are still present. In the second jaw, the teeth have been extracted, and you can see that a portion of the jawbone has already been dissolved. The third jaw is even slimmer, and finally, the fourth jawbone shows just how severe facial collapse can be.
Your dentures, just like your teeth, will be supported by the bone structure in your jaw, which is why you will still have the ability to chew. But once the bone has disappeared, your chewing efficiency disappears as well. People with facial collapse can end up on diets that include only liquids and soft foods, and this can lead to other health problems.
There are many more solutions available now than there used to be. Periodontal treatment has made major advances over the past several decades, and dental implants are making it possible to avoid facial collapse because they replace both the tooth root and the crown. To learn more, click on this link to Pumphrey Periodontics’ What Are Dental Implants page.
This Blog is brought to you by Dr. David Pumphrey of Pumphrey Periodontics in Atlanta.