Osteoporosis and Periodontal Disease
Osteoporosis is a disorder characterized by bones that become thinner, more porous and more fragile over time. The condition affects about 6 million women and 2 million men Nationwide and has few if any symptoms in the early stages. As a matter of fact, for many people a fractured bone is sometimes the first indication that a problem exists. The good news is identifying the early signs of bone loss in the mouth may be reliable predictors of your risk for osteoporosis.
Scientists have studied the relationship between periodontal disease and osteoporosis for over a decade, recognizing that the bone that supports the teeth in the mouth becomes significantly more porous after about age 50 and is affected by conditions in the rest of the body. Periodontal disease is caused by inflammation and bacterial infection – it is not caused by osteoporosis; but osteoporosis can make bone loss from periodontal disease more severe. Risk of developing the disorder increases with age… over 40% of women over age 65 have signs of low bone density, primarily caused by a decrease in the amount of the hormone estrogen produced by the body after menopause. However, inadequate intake of Vitamin D and calcium, physical inactivity, smoking and certain medications and family history are also known risk factors.
Identifying the signs of bone loss in the mouth can help identify osteoporosis – and the sooner it is treated, the less likely it is to cause d
ebilitating fractures, tooth loss from periodontal disease and a diminished quality of life. Even when teeth are already missing, loss of the bony ridges that holds dentures or partials in place will cause a poor fit. Studies have shown that patients with osteoporosis usually require new dentures more often than patients who do not have osteoporosis.
Not surprisingly treating periodontal disease and osteoporosis simultaneously can be very beneficial. A study published in the Journal of the American Dental Association in March 2011* by Stony Brook University researchers has generated some strong evidence for making sure that dental visits are an integral part of your personal health care plan. The two-year double-blind study involved Sub-antimicrobial-dose doxycycline (SDD), the only drug approved by the FDA for treating the most common type of periodontal disease. Researchers tested the drug in postmenopausal women with both periodontal disease and low bone density – and produced some encouraging results. According to the researchers, SDD not only reduced periodontal disease over a time, it but also reduced the risk of bone loss around the hips and spine.
A dental exam is not a replacement for a bone density evaluation when recommended by the doctor, but current research suggests that the dentist can help identify people at risk for developing osteoporosis by analyzing bone thickness and patterns on dental x-rays during routine dental checkup appointments. Of course, this is part of the comprehensive oral ex
amination you receive at every check-up visit. Did you know how useful dental x-rays could be? Are you at risk?