The Dentist From a Child' Point of View

Osteoporosis: Put Your Bone Health Where Your Mouth Is

According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, roughly 8 million American women have osteoporosis, a disease that is characterized by weak and brittle bones as the result of decreased bone mass. If you are in menopause, your primary care physician may recommend a bone density scan to evaluate your bone health, but did you know that some early signs of osteoporosis may first be detected by your dentist? Find out how, and learn what you should do to preserve your bone and dental health.

Oral Effects of Osteoporosis

If you have osteoporosis, then you are at an increased risk for sustaining tooth loss and periodontal disease. The reduction in bone density occurs throughout your skeletal frame, including in your jawbone, which serves as a support structure for holding your teeth securely in place. Once it starts to erode, this support is weakened and your teeth become loose. If you think that acquiring dentures will be an easy fix for replacing lost teeth later in life, guess again. Proper denture placement relies on the bony ridges of your jaw for a secure fit. Once these ridges deteriorate, then this anchor is lost.

Oral Signs of Osteoporosis

As you sit in the dental chair through an examination and dental radiographs, clues will be revealed to alert your dentist to the presence of osteoporosis. By comparing the results of your future examinations and x-rays with those of your previous visits, your dentist will also observe the progression of the disease. Some oral signs of osteoporosis including the following:

  • Loss of bone around the roots of your teeth
  • Loose or lost teeth
  • Dentures no longer fit properly, which can be evidenced by mouth sores or problems with speaking clearly
  • Severe periodontal disease

If your dentist observes any of these signs, he or she will advise you to see your primary care physician for a further evaluation and to discuss a treatment plan.

Preventative Tips

Once bone density begins to diminish, you cannot gain it all back. There is no cure for osteoporosis, but there are things that you can do to prevent or delay its onset. Some of these things include the following:

  • Do not put off recommended dental examinations and treatments.
  • Do not smoke.
  • Decrease your consumption of alcoholic and caffeinated beverages.
  • Engage in a regular aerobic exercise routine.
  • Make sure that you take in enough calcium. Women should take 1,000mg of calcium daily, and that amount should be increased to 1,200mg once you turn 51.
  • Be sure that you are taking in the recommended daily allowance of vitamin D. You should be taking in 400 to 800 IU daily until you turn 50, at which time your daily dose should be bumped up to between 800 and 1,000 IU.

If you have been diagnosed with osteoporosis, following these proactive tips can be helpful in slowing the progression of the disease and preserving your dental health.

Treatment Alert

If you are diagnosed with osteoporosis, your primary care physician may discuss the use of medication as part of your treatment plan. Drugs that are used to treat osteoporosis include estrogen hormone therapies and bisphosphonates. The latter category bombards the television airwaves and magazine pages with advertisements that promise to increase and strengthen your bone mass. Be aware that in some patients, these bisphosphonates, known as antiresorptive agents, have been linked to the development of osteonecrosis of the jaw, a condition that results in severe destruction of your jawbone. This can adversely impact your ability to heal successfully after undergoing a tooth extraction. If your dentist recommends any oral surgical procedure, be sure to let him or her know if you are taking bisphosphonates so that your treatment plan can be adjusted for the best possible outcome. Likewise, if your physician recommends treatment for your osteoporosis with bisphosphonates, let him or her know if you expect to have an oral procedure in the future.