Identify Osteoporosis By Using Ordinary Dental X-rays

Osteoporosis is the most common type of bone disease.
 
Researchers estimate that about 1 out of 5 American women over the age of 50 have osteoporosis. About half of all women over the age of 50 will have a fracture of the hip, wrist, or vertebra (bones of the spine).
 
Osteoporosis occurs when the body fails to form enough new bone, when too much old bone is reabsorbed by the body, or both.
 
Calcium and phosphate are two minerals that are essential for normal bone formation. Throughout youth, your body uses these minerals to produce bones. If you do not get enough calcium, or if your body does not absorb enough calcium from the diet, bone production and bone tissues may suffer.
 
As you age, calcium and phosphate may be reabsorbed back into the body from the bones, which makes the bone tissue weaker. This can result in brittle, fragile bones that are more prone to fractures, even without injury. Usually, the loss occurs gradually over years. Many times, a person will have a fracture before becoming aware that the disease is present. By the time a fracture occurs, the disease is in its advanced stages and damage is severe. The leading causes of osteoporosis are a drop in estrogen in women at the time of menopause and a drop in testosterone in men. Women over age 50 and men over age 70 have a higher risk for osteoporosis.
 
Researchers in the Academic Center for Dentistry Amsterdam have created a unique way of identifying patients at risk of osteoporosis by using ordinary dental x-rays. Professor Paul F. van der Stelt and his team developed the largely automated approach to detecting the disease during a three-year, EU-funded collaboration with the Universities of Manchester, Athens, Leuven, and Malmo. They will present their findings today during the 85th General Session of the International Association for Dental Research.
 
Osteoporosis affects almost 15% of Western women in their fifties, 22% in their sixties, and 38.5% in their seventies. As many as 70% of women over 80 are at risk, and the condition carries a high risk of bone fractures, with over a third of adult women falling victim at least once in their lifetime. Wide-scale screening for the disease is not currently viable, largely due to the cost and scarcity of specialist dental equipment and staff.
 
The team has therefore developed an innovative software-based approach to detecting osteoporosis using routine dental x-rays, by automatically analyzing specific characteristics of the radiographic trabecular bone pattern. These features include, among others, the thickness, the amount of fragmentation, and the main orientation of the structure of the trabecular bone.
 
In four clinical centers, 671 women with an average age of 55 years were recruited. To obtain the "gold standard", the team measured bone thickness at the femur, hip, and spine, using the technique that is common for this kind of expensive examination (Bone Mass Density, BMD). In addition, one panoramic and two intra-oral radiographs were made.
 
X-rays are used widely in dental practice for several reasons. Using the image information from these radiographs to detect patients at risk for osteoporosis involves no extra radiation and almost no extra cost, while undetected osteoporotic patients can incur bone fractures and suffer from other problems, reducing the quality of life.
 
 

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