November 12, 2013

Osteoporosis Medications and Your Dental Health

Bone Density

As we grow older, our bones begin to lose their density and strength, especially after the age of 50. Many factors affect bone density, including diet, physical activity, family history, hormones, lifestyle and certain conditions and medications.

Bone Disease

Osteoporosis--porous bone--is a disease that weakens bones, especially hip, spine and wrist, and makes them more likely to break. It affects about 10 million Americans, 8 million of whom are women. The disease affects more women than cancer, heart disease and stroke combined. An additional 34 million Americans have osteopenia, or low bone density, and are at risk for developing osteoporosis.


Broken bones, as a result of osteoporosis, will affect 50% of women and 25% of men over the age of 50, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation. To prevent broken bones, many people with low bone density or osteoporosis take drugs called bisphosphonates (fosomax, boniva, actonel, reclast, etc.). Studies indicate that, in many people, these medications help reduce the chance of breaking bones by reducing bone loss and increasing bone density.

In rare cases, a condition known as osteonecrosis of the jaw (ONJ) has been reported in patients taking these medications. This rare but serious condition can cause severe damage to the jawbone. 94% of those diagnosed with ONJ are patients with cancer who are receiving or have received repeated high doses of medication through an intravenous infusion.

The benefits of these medications greatly outweigh the very low risk of developing ONJ. You should not stop taking these medications without consulting your health care provider. There is no known prevention for ONJ. However, regular dental visits and excellent oral hygiene practices may be the best way to reduce your risk.

Source: American Dental Association, JADA, vol. 142, #11, 1320, Nov. 1, 2011

Robert G. Tupac, DDS, FACP, Inc., Diplomate, American Board of Prosthodontics (661) 325-1275 | 5060 California Ave., #170, Bakersfield, CA 93309

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