Osteoporosis and Why Your Dentist Should Know

Ever wonder why your Atlanta dentist has to know what drugs you are taking? After all, what effect could this possibly have on your mouth? Many people do not feel comfortable sharing this type of personal information, and it can be especially difficult for women who are taking medications (or had ‘female’ procedures done) to divulge that information to a male dentist.

Osteoporosis

  • During her later years, menopause becomes part of a woman’s life. Many women worry about osteoporosis or osteopenia and turn to their OB-GYNs for direction on what they can do to prevent that from occurring.
  • There have been many forms of medication in the past that were prescribed for these bone conditions. For the last decade or so, the major drug of choice has been some form of what is called a bisphosphonate drug. Examples include Floramax, Boniva, Actonel, Didronel, and Reclast.
  • Some of these drugs are also used to treat other bone diseases like Paget’s Disease as well as some forms of cancer. These drugs do wonders for maintaining the bone levels of women in their postmenopausal years.
  • However, there are always side effects with any drug we take, and it is important to know those serious side effects, especially on medication that is taken on a daily basis for long periods of time.

Bisphosphonates

  • These bisphosphonate drugs are no different. The drugs work by affecting the bone cells, called osteoblasts and osteoclasts, which means they slow or stop the natural process that dissolves bone tissue, resulting in maintained or increased bone density. So why is all this important for your mouth and jaws?
  • Patients who are taking the medication for osteoporosis take it by mouth as a pill. Many forms of cancer use these drugs in an I.V. form. For those who take the I.V. form, there is a high risk of what is called osteonecrosis of the jaw.
  • Osteonecrosis of the jaw is a condition in which the bone is dying. For patients who take the pill form, it is important to understand that, based on the information currently available, the risk for developing bone osteonecrosis is low.

Preventing osteonecrosis of the bone

  • Some of the dental treatments that have this risk tied to them include oral surgery, tooth extractions, gum and bone disease, dental implants, and root canals. The best form of treatment is preventative treatment.
  • If you think you will be on a bisphosphonate drug in the near future, or if you already are on one, give us a call so we can do a thorough dental examination and treat any conditions you may have early, to avoid any need to worry about osteonecrosis of the bone.
  • Again, you are likely at low risk, but it is important for us to know you are on these medications so we can make sure you maintain a good clean bill of dental health. So, when your dentist asks if you are on any new medications, let us know. Stay up to date with your visits to the OB-GYN and let them know you still see your dentist on a regular basis.