Osteoporosis – it's not the easiest word to say, nor is it the easiest thing to face.
However, over 200 million women worldwide suffer from osteoporosis, according to the International Osteoporosis Foundation. Being such a prevalent medical condition, it's important we understand who it affects, what it really means and how it can affect our teeth.
What is osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a condition in which the patient's bones gradually lose density, becoming brittle and more likely to fracture. It can cause serious complications when bones break, as recovery is stunted. Unfortunately, it's also considered a silent disease, as bone loss is not generally felt and may only be discovered upon fracturing.
This condition often develops as a result of a lack of particular hormones. For this reason, menopausal women are at increased risk of developing osteoporosis due to lower estrogen levels. That said, men are still capable of losing bone density in this way and should be aware of this as they age.
How does osteoporosis relate to oral health?
Dental x-rays can help to spot signs of bone density deterioration before fractures or serious oral health problems occur.
Your jaw (alveolar) bone supports and anchors your teeth. When bone density declines, this connection can weaken and mobility or loss of teeth can become more likely.
It's also possible that osteoporosis can make the alveolar bone more susceptible to periodontal bacteria. This means that gingivitis may be more likely, and quicker, to develop into severe periodontitis in patients with osteoporosis.
Perhaps most importantly, osteoporosis can be a confidently identified by your dentist. As you should be visiting your dentist every six months, but are less likely to visit a doctor with as much regularity, dental x-rays can help to spot signs of bone density deterioration before fractures or serious oral health problems occur.
Can osteoporosis affect dental treatment?
Your doctor may prescribe bisphosphonate (BP) medication to treat the symptoms of osteoporosis. BP is thought to overall contribute to a better chance of bone recovery and quality of life in osteoporosis patients, however there are side effects that may impact dentistry.
BP treatment has been correlated with the death of bone tissue – osteonecrosis of the jaw (ONJ) – though no certain cause and effect relationship has been determined. ONJ is more likely to occur following dental activities such as extractions, so it's important to inform your dentist if you are receiving BP treatment.
Furthermore, a recent Japanese study of BP treatment correlated resultant higher bone minerality with the failure of dental implants to integrate.
It's important to identify osteoporosis and keep your dentist in the loop about your medication to ensure you maintain healthy teeth. For a check up, including dental x-rays, book online with City Dentists today or call 04 978 4964.