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Friday, August 23, 2013
Osteoporosis is a disease characterized by reduced bone quantity and quality. The loss in bone mass and decrease in bone density (i.e. increased porosity) causes the bone to weaken. As the disease progresses, the bone becomes more fragile and even the slightest trauma can cause it to fracture (1,2).
The major risk factors for this disease are increased age and female gender (2).
Other significant risk factors include low levels of sex hormones (e.g. menopause), low body weight, ethnicity (e.g. white or Asian), a family history of osteoporosis, low dietary intake of calcium and vitamin D, cigarette smoking, and alcoholism (2).
Medications such as anticonvulsants or glucocorticoids can also increase the risk for this disease (1,3).
Researchers suspect that osteoporosis may be a risk factor for oral bone loss (3,4) since the quality and quantity of the jaw bone appears to be affected (1,4). Although more research is needed to further evaluate the connection between tooth loss, periodontal disease, and osteoporosis, most studies do report an association between oral and skeletal bone loss (3).
Research findings suggest that high quality intra-oral dental radiographs may help in the detection of osteoporosis (3). Dental radiographs, which are routinely used to diagnose dental disease, could also be beneficial in identifying bone changes or low bone density in the oral cavity (5). This represents an important potential in the detection of bone disease. Since approximately two-thirds of adult Americans visit their dentist annually (6), early detection of changes in bone density may be observed by your dental health professional with the use of routine radiographs (5). If you have risk factors for osteoporosis, be sure to ask your dental health professional about the general appearance of your bone the next time you have radiographs taken. With the use of radiographs, the dental health professional can play an important role in identifying changes in your jaw bone and he/she can make a referral to your physician for further evaluation if needed.
This article is a NetWellness exclusive.
Last Reviewed: Jun 28, 2006
Assistant Professor of Dental Hygiene
College of Dentistry
The Ohio State University