How Osteoporosis Medications Might Affect Their Oral Health

Medicines are used to both prevent and treat osteoporosis. Some medicines slow the rate of bone loss or increase bone thickness. Even small amounts of new bone growth can reduce your risk of broken bones.
 
If you take medicine for osteoporosis, you will also need to get enough calcium and vitamin D, eat a healthy diet, and exercise regularly. A large part of treating or reducing the effects of osteoporosis is getting enough calcium and vitamin D.
 
Medicines used to prevent or treat osteoporosis include:
 
Bisphosphonates, such as alendronate (Fosamax), ibandronate (Boniva), risedronate (Actonel), and zoledronic acid (Reclast), which slow the rate of bone thinning and can lead to increased bone density. These medicines may be used in men and women.
 
Raloxifene (Evista), a selective estrogen receptor modulator (SERM), which is used only in women. Raloxifene slows bone thinning and causes some increase in bone thickness.
 
Calcitonin (Calcimar or Miacalcin), a naturally occurring hormone that helps regulate calcium levels in your body and is part of the bone-building process. When taken by shot or nasal spray, it slows the rate of bone thinning. Calcitonin also relieves pain caused by spinal compression fractures. Calcitonin is used in men and women.
 
Dental patients who have been alarmed or confused by recent news reports about how osteoporosis medications might affect their oral health now have a brochure to help them separate fact from fiction. The American Dental Association (ADA) collaborated with the National Osteoporosis Foundation to create the brochure, "Osteoporosis Medications and Your Dental Health," which will be available in dental offices this month.
 
The brochure explains that some patients who have taken bisphosphonates, a common class of drugs taken by those with osteoporosis or low-bone density, have developed bisphosphonate-associated osteonecrosis of the jaw. Osteonecrosis of the jaw is a rare but serious condition that can cause severe damage to the jawbone. This condition is diagnosed in patients who have an area of exposed bone in the jaw that persists for more than eight weeks, who have no history of radiation therapy to the head and neck and who are taking, or have taken, a bisphosphonate medication.
 
The chance of developing osteonecrosis of the jaw for patients who take bisphosphonates is unknown; however researchers agree that the chance appears to be very small. In fact, 94 percent of people diagnosed with osteonecrosis of the jaw are cancer patients who are or have received repeated high doses of bisphosphonates intravenously. The remaining 6 percent diagnosed with osteonecrosis of the jaw took oral bisphosphonates.
 
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