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Osteoporosis and Your Oral Health
What does osteoporosis have to do with your oral health? Quite a lot, actually. In fact, your dentist may be the first one to detect the possibility of osteoporosis due to changes in your mouth. It is important to see a dentist regularly to monitor any changes and to develop a base to determine if changes have occurred long before they do.
What is osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a disease that is caused by aging, menopause, and a Vitamin D and calcium deficiency. It is a weakening of the bones which causes them to become fragile and less dense. This has become a common disease in the United States partially due to our dietary habits.
The disease is not discriminatory and can strike anyone at any age. However, women over 50 years of age are more likely to develop osteoporosis than others.
Effects of osteoporosis on oral health
Osteoporosis weakens the bones and makes them more susceptible to breaks. This directly affects the teeth and the jawbone that supports them. The disease can weaken the jawbone, leading to the loss of teeth as well as other gum and periodontal diseases.
A weakened jawbone also limits treatments. Dental implants are not an option when the underlying bone is too weak to support them. Those with osteoporosis are more likely to have ill-fitting or loose dentures and require new dentures more often.
Bone health tips
The following are tips to ensure good bone health:
- Avoid smoking and excessive alcohol consumption
- Decrease your caffeine intake
- Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet that has the recommended daily servings of calcium and Vitamin D
- If not already doing so, exercise regularly. Incorporate weight training, walking and/or jogging into your weekly routine
- Let the dentist know immediately if there are oral health issues that occur such as receding gums, loose teeth or if dentures that once fit well suddenly loosen
Signs of osteoporosis
The mouth may hold the first signs of osteoporosis making the dentist the first one to suspect a patient has this disease. Tooth loss and gum disease can be early warning signs of osteoporosis.
We don’t exactly look at our bones every day, so changes that occur are often not seen until a fall or injury. This is one of the reasons dental professionals are capable of discovering the disease early on. Regular visits and yearly x-rays of the teeth and jaw may reveal a decrease in bone density. A sudden change alerts the dentist to a need for more exploration and care.
As bone density decreases, teeth loosen. Multiple missing teeth are a red flag for the possibility of this disease.
For those who already have dentures, the dentures may become loose or ill-fitting as the supporting bone weakens. This can create difficulties with speaking and chewing.
The bottom line
Early intervention is key to managing osteoporosis and your oral health. New medications are constantly being discovered to both prevent and treat this disease. Make sure you talk to your dentist and your doctor about all of your options.
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