More commonly seen in older women who’ve reached menopause, osteoporosis is a condition that can cause a person’s bones to become brittle and weak to the point that falling or even minor stresses like coughing or bending over can cause fractures, most commonly in the wrist, hip, or spine. Bone, living tissue, is constantly breaking down and being replaced, and osteoporosis occurs if the creation of new bone isn’t keeping up with the loss of old bone.
Typically, there aren’t symptoms in the earliest stages of osteoporosis, but once the bones have weakened, symptoms can include stooped posture, back pain due to a collapsed or fractured vertebra, height loss, or bone fractures that occur too easily.
For those who are currently being treated for osteoporosis, it turns out a certain drug used as treatment can also help fight gum disease. According to Dr. Leena Bahl Palomo with Case Western Reserve University’s Dental Medicine School, the drug risedronate, which prevents and even reverses bone loss caused by osteoporosis, can also be beneficial for a patient’s oral cavity. Dr. Palomo specifically directed one of the first studies that looked into the impact a group of bisphosphonate therapies had on women with mild and moderate cases of gum disease and osteoporosis.
During her study, Dr. Palomo evaluated 60 women of menopausal age taking weekly or only daily bisphosphonate for a minimum of 90 days to regenerate bone mass alongside those who took no medication for the condition. The participants had similar characteristics-ranging from 51 to 79 years of age, possessing T scores on spine or hip bone scans of 22.5, half weighing around 127 pounds, all having comparable coffee and alcohol intakes, none using estrogen or tobacco products, or all having conditions, such as diabetes, that would increase their risk of gum disease.
All participants received x-rays for their jaw and teeth as well as an oral exam for assessing inflammation, periodontal pockets, gum recession, teeth mobility, and plaque. While gum recession wasn’t significantly different in either group, Dr. Palomo did find that in five of six parameters, the experimental group who received risedronate therapy had better periodontal statuses. In this group, the participants had noticeably less plaque, which is an early sign of gum disease. Per Dr. Palomo, risedronate therapy “is altering the periodontal status.”
“With a close link established between osteoporosis and periodontal disease, similar treatment and management of the disease might minimize tooth loss and the destruction of the alveolar [jaw] bone,” Dr. Palomo said.
This is just more proof as to how important it is for everyone, regardless of age, to continue an active oral care program. Additionally, if you are experiencing other health problems, check with your doctor to see exactly how these other health problems can impact your oral health so you can discuss preventative care with your dentist.