The portion of the jaw bone that supports our teeth is known as the alveolar process. Several studies have found that the loss of alveolar bone is linked to an increase in loose teeth (tooth mobility) and tooth loss. Women with osteoporosis are three times more likely to experience tooth loss than those who do not have the disease.
Low bone density in the jaw can result in other dental problems as well. For example, older women with osteoporosis may be more likely to have difficulty with loose or ill-fitting dentures and may have less optimal outcomes from oral surgical procedures.
Osteoporosis and tooth loss are health concerns that affect many older men and women. Osteoporosis is a disease in which the bones become less dense and more prone to fracture. This disease can affect any bone in the body, although the bones in the hip, spine, and wrist are most often affected. In the United States today, 10 million individuals already have osteoporosis and 34 million more have low bone mass, placing them at increased risk for this disease.
Research suggests that there is a link between osteoporosis and bone loss in the jaw. The bone in the jaw supports and anchors our teeth. When the jaw bone becomes less dense, tooth loss can occur. Tooth loss affects approximately one-third of adults 65 years and older.
Research supported by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) suggests that dental x-rays may be used as a screening tool for osteoporosis. Researchers found that dental x-rays were highly effective in distinguishing people with osteoporosis from those with normal bone density.
Since many people see their dentist more regularly then their doctor, dentists are in a unique position to help identify people with low bone density and to encourage them to talk to their doctors about their bone health. Dental concerns that may indicate low bone density include loose teeth, gums detaching from the teeth or receding gums, and ill-fitting or loose dentures.