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Osteoporosis Medicines and your Dental Health

Osteoporosis is the thinning of bone density over time.  This thinning of bones, especially the hip, spine and wrists, occurs gradually over many years.  It is the most common type of bone disease.  Osteoporosis affects 10 million Americans and is much more prevalent in women.  Researchers estimate that about 1 out of 5 American women over the age of 50 have osteoporosis.    The disease causes more than 2 million fractures each year and can cause problems that affect a person’s quality of life.

Many people with low bone density take one of the drugs from a group called bisphosphonates.  These medications include, Actonel, Atelvia, Bonefos, Boniva, Didronel, Fosamax, generic alendronate, Skelid, Aredia, Prolia, Reclast, Zometa and others.  Study results indicate that these medications help to reduce the number of fractures.  It is estimated that osteoporosis treatment could prevent almost 100,000 hip fractures and many fracture related deaths each year.   

Some patients who have been treated with certain osteoporosis medications have developed a condition called osteonecrosis of the jaw (ONJ).   This is a rare but serious condition that can cause damage to the jawbone.  In most cases of ONJ the condition is associated with persons being treated for cancer who have received high doses of osteoporosis medications thru intravenous infusion.   In some cases, ONJ has developed in those taking much lower doses of osteoporosis medications.  

There is no known prevention for ONJ, however regular dental visits and good oral hygiene may be the best way to reduce your risk.  Let your dentist know if you are taking one of the medications for the treatment of osteoporosis.  You should not stop taking your medications without speaking to your healthcare provider.  The benefits of taking these medications, greatly outweighs the risk of developing ONJ.