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Osteoporosis therapy could help with gum disease

Drugs used to treat osteoporosis can help ward off periodontal disease, too.

A researcher at the Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine report that the bisphosphonate drug risedronate that reverses and prevents bone loss from osteoporosis can be beneficial in the oral cavity.

Dr. Leena Bahl Palomo conducted one of the first studies looking at the impact of a group of bisphosphonate therapies for women with moderate and mild cases of osteoporosis and periodontal disease.

In her research, Dr. Palomo compared 60 menopausal women taking daily or weekly bisphosphonate for at least three months to regenerate bone mass to those on no medications for the disease.

The women in the study had common characteristics—they were between ages 51 and 79, had T scores on bone scans of the hip or spine of 22.5, half weighed about 127 pounds, all had similar alcohol and coffee intake, did not smoke, use tobacco or estrogen products, or have conditions like diabetes that would increase the risk of periodontal disease.

The women received an X-ray of the teeth and jaw and an oral examination that assessed the amount of inflammation, depth of the periodontal pocket, recession of the gums, mobility of the teeth and the presence of plaque. Gum recession was not significantly different for either group, but Dr. Palomo found that in five of the six parameters, the risedronate therapy group had healthier periodontal status.

In that group, the women had significantly less plaque, an early indicator for periodontal disease. Risedronate therapy "is altering the periodontal status," noted Dr. Palomo.

"With a close link established between osteoporosis and periodontal disease, similar treatment and management of the disease might minimize tooth loss and the destruction of the alveolar (jaw) bone," she said.

"This is more evidence to support the view of the mouth being a mirror of what’s happening in the body," said Dr. Nabil Bissada, chair and professor of Case's department of periodontology.

Please contact the ADA if you have questions about this article.

©2010 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

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