Osteoporosis is a condition that causes bones to become thin and porous, decreasing bone strength and leading to increased risk of breaking a bone. While it is often associated with women over the age of 50, osteoporosis can strike at any age, and affects both men and women. According to Osteoporosis Canada, at least 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men will suffer from an osteoporotic fracture during their lifetime.
Reduced bone density can also affect your mouth. As part of your regular dental exam, your dentists can detect changes in your mouth that may be signs of osteoporosis, such as:
- Receding gums: A common condition that can be caused by several factors, one of which is bone loss.
- Bone loss in the jaw and around the teeth: This may be a sign of bone loss in other parts of the body.
- Tooth loss: Studies suggest that women with low bone mineral density tend to lose more teeth.
- Gum or periodontal disease: Gum disease contributes to bone loss. Furthermore, bone loss associated with a combination of periodontal disease and osteoporosis is a major predictor of tooth loss in postmenopausal women.
- Ill-fitting dentures in post-menopausal woman. Studies show that post-menopausal women with osteoporosis need new dentures three times more often after age 50 than women without osteoporosis. Bone loss may become so severe that it may be impossible to create functional dentures. Without the aid of dentures to chew many types of food, older patients may suffer severe nutritional deficiencies.
If your dentist suspects you have may be suffering from this bone disorder, he or she can refer you to a physician for medical assessment and subsequent treatment.
It is important to tell your dentist of any medications you are taking prior to dental treatment. Certain medicines (bisphosphonates) used to strengthen bones have been associated with a rare but serious condition called osteonecrosis of the jaw (ONJ) that can cause severe damage to the jawbone. Learn more
There are many steps you can take to reduce your risk of osteoporosis that can also benefit your dental health such as:
- Eat well: include calcium and vitamin D in your diet
- Exercise on a daily basis
- Avoid smoking
- Decrease caffeine and alcohol intake
Learn more from Osteoporosis Canada: Osteoporosis Facts & Statistics and Health Canada: Seniors and Aging - Osteoporosis