Is Your Face ‘Melting’?

added on: October 11, 2021

As Halloween approaches, I always remember seeing “The Wizard of Oz” as a young girl. Like most children, the wicked witches’ green face and sharp features were terrifying. So, it was almost a relief when water thrown by Dorothy to put out her broom’s fire ended up being her demise. The famous cry, “I’m melting! I’m melting!” was a welcome end, enabling many young viewers to finally take a breath.

As a Shelby Twp dentist, this reminds me of how facial bones can “melt.” There is actually a dental term for bones that are melting: resorption. Although the process of resorption is not initially obvious, over time ‘melting’ facial bones can become apparent in appearance and dental function. I’ll explain…

Features of resorption (bone shrinkage)

Let’s look at a natural tooth that’s situated in the upper or lower jaw bone. Below the gum tissues that wrap the base of each tooth are the tooth’s roots. These roots contain the portions of the tooth that not only ‘feed’ the tooth, they nurture the bone mass that supports them. Some teeth have only one root ‘prong’ that extends into the jaw bone. Larger teeth have up to four.

The presence of the roots provide a stimulation to the jaw bone, which helps the bone to retain its mass. The interior chambers of the roots contain pulp, the innermost portion of the tooth. The pulp consists of tiny blood vessels and nerve tissue. Blood vessels supply the supporting periodontal (gum) tissues with nutrients while the nerves serve to control the amount of force used in chewing.

Like the other parts of our bodies, each component is designed to interact with others. In its perfect design, our living bones are kept healthy and functional with the careful integration of surrounding structures. Thus, the reason we numb the area surrounding a tooth when it’s being filled or crowned (‘capped’), it is because the tooth contains nerves that send signals of pain to the brain.

When a tooth requires a root canal, the procedure is performed to clean out infection that exists inside the tooth’s chamber. The tooth is then filled with a material that hardens and preserves its structure. To protect the portion above the gum line, a crown is generally placed over the tooth.

Why is it important to keep a tooth in its position even when its interior chamber is no longer nourishing the jaw bone?

The benefit of a root canal is in its ability to keep a tooth from being removed. Although the blood vessels no longer ‘feed’ the jaw bone, its presence is very important to the bone that’s supporting it.

Aging female with no bone loss from resorption

What effect will come from losing just one or two natural teeth?

One of the ways to protect the health of teeth is to ensure they are properly aligned. When teeth are able to move out of their positions, perhaps due to a missing tooth on one side (or above or below), they can tilt or turn out of position. This can lead to cracks, chips and fractures in other teeth due to the improper ‘bite’ it causes. In short, teeth can ‘hit’ neighboring teeth abnormally.

Statistics show that tooth loss is most likely to occur in an area next to that of a missing tooth.

I mentioned above about the stimulation of tooth roots to the jaw bones. Even after a root canal, if you take the stimulation away, the bone in that area will begin to resorb. The process of resorption actually begins slowly in the first year. However, over time the rate increases, accelerating more and more each year. Eventually, the facial shape reveals changes caused by resorption that tend to age one’s appearance far beyond their actual age.

Initially, the changes may be subtle. Deep wrinkles tend to form around the mouth. The corners of the mouth begin to turn downward, even when smiling. Jowls form as facial muscles release from shrinking bone structures. As the bone declines further, the chin becomes more pointed in appearance and the mouth seems to collapse into the face. The chin moves closer to the nose, creating what’s known as a ‘granny look.’

Dental function also takes a hit when it comes to tooth loss. The strength of the bite is more challenged. Jaw bone breaks become more likely. Wearing a denture or partial becomes very challenging due to its declining ‘ridge’ that is relied upon for support. Dental prosthetics begin to slip while eating, or even speaking. Eventually, frequent applications of denture pastes and adhesives are needed.

One of the reasons we often recommend dental implants to replace missing teeth is because of their ability to recreate stimulation. By halting the rate of bone loss, implants help protect the bone structure while providing a stable foundation for replacement teeth. And, dental implants do not rely on neighboring teeth for support, as in crown-&-bridge.

There are many types of dental implants, each designed to suit individual needs and preferences. Most are able to support more than one replacement tooth, as in the All On 4. This particular implant system can support a full arch of teeth (all missing upper or lower), using just 4 specially-designed implanted posts. All-On-4 also works well for people who have experienced a great deal of bone loss. And, because only 4 implants are needed per arch, the cost for treatment is more affordable for some adults who are missing most teeth.

Why let your face ‘melt’ when you can enjoy a restored look, feel and function? Today’s implant systems are more affordable and, if bone rebuilding procedures are necessary, a bone graft is not always needed. Bone rebuilding materials can often be applied to restore the bone mass to a proper level.

In our Shelby Township dental office, we offer some of the most advanced dental technology available. This helps our patients to enjoy start-to-finish dental implant treatment in one convenient location in optimal comfort and minimal treatment time. Too, our appealing financial options help many adults to achieve the smile they desire while making affordable monthly payments.

I’ll also discuss our commitment to patient comfort, at every visit. We offer oral and I.V. sedation (twilight sleep), which are administered safely and continual monitoring by trained staff.

Begin by allowing me to introduce myself and our state-of-the-art dental office at:

Then, please consider arranging a free consultation. Together, we can discuss your needs and preferences in a comfortable setting. I’ll answer your questions and help you determine realistic treatment expectations. From there, you can decide how you wish to proceed, if you feel we are the right place for you. To schedule, tap here or call 586-739-2155.


Schedule an Appointment