Bone loss around teeth can affect anyone, but is more common in older people. It can affect the underlying jawbone (the alveolar bone), which contains the sockets of the teeth, as well as the roots and tissue that connects the tooth to the socket.
What causes bone loss around teeth?
Left unchecked, periodontal disease can lead to inflammation, which can spread below the gum line to the bones that support the structure of the teeth.
The gums will begin to recede, leaving a gap between the tooth and the gum where plaque will get trapped, leading to teeth loosening and falling out or having to be removed by the dentist. As the disease progresses, the bone supporting the teeth may be lost.
Other causes of bone loss around the teeth include osteoporosis, tooth infections and bacterial infections from implants, known as peri-implantitis.
Brush up your dental health
Here are some simple ways to protect your teeth and gums to stop bone loss and prevent it from getting any worse.
- Brush twice a day: Brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste for two minutes twice a day in the morning and last thing at night, preferably with a toothbrush with a small head.
- See your dentist regularly: You should visit your dentist at least every six months and see a dental hygienist for extra cleaning if needed.
- Floss before brushing: Everyone should use floss or interdental brushes to clean between their teeth once a day. Interdental brushes are advised over floss if you have periodontitis as they do a better job of clearing food debris and plaque between the teeth.
- Spit, don't rinse: Many of us make the mistake of rinsing our mouths after brushing. This washes out the protective fluoride left behind by brushing, which strengthens tooth enamel and reduces the amount of acid that the bacteria on the teeth produce.
Other ways to protect yourself
- Make calcium and vitamin D a priority: Calcium is critically important to bone health. A review, published by Journal of Dentistry, found that among 17 studies, 11 showed having osteoporosis (fragile bones) was associated with a higher risk of bone loss in the jaw bone. To help maintain bone density include plenty of calcium-rich foods in your diet, such as cheese, milk, kale, watercress and sardines or take a calcium supplement.
- Vitamin D is also crucial for bone health as it aids the absorption of calcium. Vitamin D is found in many foods, including: egg yolks; oily fish (salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines); dairy products and fortified margarines; and meat (liver and kidney).
- Quit smoking: Smoking increases the risk of periodontitis as it increases plaque production and reduces bone mass. A study, published by Singapore Dental Journal, found smoking and age were major risk factors for tooth loss.
- Eat a healthy diet: Vitamin C deficiency can cause gingivitis and bleeding gums. Eat vitamin C rich-foods, such as peppers, broccoli and kiwi, or, alternatively consider taking a vitamin C supplement. A 2017 review suggested vitamin C, vitamin D or vitamin B12 deficiencies may be related to the progression and onset of periodontal disease. Also include calcium-rich foods in your diet such as milk and cheese to help form strong teeth and bones.
- Control your blood sugar: An estimated one in three people with diabetes also has periodontitis at some point, due to high blood glucose levels. Exercise can help reduce blood sugar levels, and walking is a great way to do this.
- Take probiotics: Recent studies have found probiotics not only benefit your gut, but can also help with gum health. A review of 12 studies found taking oral probiotics is a safe and effective way to manage periodontitis, alongside scaling by a dental hygienist.
Several supplements can help support your bones and teeth. These include:
- Calcium and vitamin D: One study found taking calcium and vitamin D supplements showed significant changes in reducing gingival (gum) inflammation and increasing bone density after three months and had a positive effect on periodontal health.
- Magnesium: A study published by the Journal of Dental Research, found taking magnesium supplements may improve periodontal health.
Jo Waters is a health writer who has contributed to a variety of newspapers and magazines including the Daily Mail, Mirror, Nurture Magazine and the Express.
See more of Jo Waters' work.