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Periodontal Disease and Osteoporosis

Periodontal disease is characterized by a continual loss of surrounding gingival tissue in the jawbone and gums. It is the #1 cause of loss of teeth in adults in the civilized world. Periodontal disease happens when bacteria found in oral plaque irritate and inflame the soft tissues around the teeth. Without treatment, bacteria migrate initially causing the inner destruction of gum tissue, and then advance to affect the boney tissue.

Osteoporosis is a common metabolic disease of the bone which frequently happens in postmenopausal women, and occurs less frequently in men. Osteoporosis is demonstrated by low bone mass, bone fragility, and a decrease in bone mineral density. Research has identified and explored a connection between osteoporosis and periodontal disease.

Research conducted at the University of New York at Buffalo in 1994 shows that post-menopausal women who were diagnosed with osteoporosis were 88% more prone to also develop periodontal disease.

Reasons for the Connection

Though research is still being made in order to further examine the extent of the relationship between periodontal disease and osteoporosis, the studies have made the following connections:

  • Deficiency in estrogen – Estrogen deficiency and associated menopause accelerates the progression of the loss of bone. The lack of estrogen speeds up the attachment rate loss (tissues and fibers which keep the teeth secure are destroyed).
  • Low mineral bone density – Studies show this to be one of many causes of osteoporosis, and the infection from periodontal disease may lead to a breakdown in weakened bones. This is the reason periodontitis can be more advanced in patients with osteoporosis.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Periodontal disease and osteoporosis are much less significant if they are seen in the beginning stages. Once a diagnosis has been given, the dentist will generally connect with the patient's doctor to make sure that both diseases are simultaneously controlled.

Here are some steps commonly used to treat and diagnose the diseases:

  • Routine dental radiographs – Radiographs (x-rays) can be efficiently made to look for bone loss in the lower and upper jaw, and the dentist can provide means for treating and preventing periodontal disease. It is believed that reducing periodontal disease will help eliminate osteoporosis.
  • Estrogen supplements – Prescribing post-menopausal women with estrogen supplements reduces the rate of attachment loss and also minimizes gingival infection, which in turn can protect the teeth from periodontal disease.
  • Assessment of risk factors – Doctors and dentists can closely watch patients that are at an significant risk of developing both diseases by looking at medical history, radiograph results, modifiable risk factors, family history, and current medications. Poor diet, obesity, estrogen deficiency, and tobacco use can all be managed using a combination of support, education, and prescription coverage.

If you have any concerns about periodontal disease and its connection with osteoporosis, please consult with Dr. Braithwaite and his staff.