Osteoporosis and Oral Health

Osteoporosis is a disease that typically occurs in older people, especially postmenopausal women. It makes the bone thinner in all areas of the body, which includes the jaw, and can affect oral health. Here's the latest on osteoporosis and your oral health, from the dentists at Great Lakes Dental in Mentor, Ohio.

About Osteoporosis

Your bones are constantly being dissolved and rebuilt (remodeling) to help promote bone health. Osteoporosis, sometimes called bone thinning, occurs when the breakdown of bone outstrips the body's ability to regenerate. It typically begins to appear later in life, and is more likely in women. The facial bones and jaw bone are affected by osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis Risk

Simply being female increases the risk of osteoporosis, as do growing older and smoking. Those of Caucasian and Asian descent are more prone to osteoporosis than other ethnic backgrounds, and a family history of osteoporosis also increases risk. People with small body frames have less bone mass and may have an increased risk of osteoporosis, as do those with medical conditions like thyroid problems, celiac disease and rheumatoid arthritis.

Jaw Health

Weight-bearing exercise and a healthy diet with important minerals like calcium, phosphorus and magnesium – as well as vitamin D – help keep bones healthy. In the jaw, that weight bearing exercise is provided by chewing. Should you lose one or more teeth, that increases the risk of jaw bone breakdown.

Treating Osteoporosis

In addition to diet and exercise, some people must take medications to keep osteoporosis from destroying bones and causing fractures. The most common class of medications is called the bisphosphonates. In rare cases, these medications can cause problems with teeth, such as difficulty healing after a tooth extraction. ONJ – osteonecrosis of the jaw – can occur when the medications cause bone breakdown.

Dental Implants and Osteoporosis

Dental implants, which are used to replace missing teeth, require a solid anchor in the jaw bone. In patients who have osteoporosis, it's important for dentists to work with the primary care physician to prevent possible complications like ONJ. In many cases, however, the evidence indicates that dental implants can be successful in people who have osteoporosis.

You can help prevent osteoporosis with a healthy diet, exposure to sunshine (for vitamin D) and regular exercise. Don't smoke! It's bad for your teeth and the rest of your body. See us for regular dental care and professional cleanings. You can also contact us for any oral health questions.