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 collaborated with the National Osteoporosis Foundation to create the brochure titled, "Osteoporosis Medications and Your Dental Health." It 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 risk appears to be very small. In fact, 94 percent of people diagnosed with osteonecrosis of the jaw are cancer patients who have received repeated high doses of bisphosphonates intravenously. The remaining 6 percent diagnosed with osteonecrosis of the jaw took oral bisphosphonates.
"Patients who take bisphosphonates for osteoporosis are encouraged to talk to their dentist so that their dentist can show them good oral hygiene practices as well as monitor their oral health," said Dr. Matthew Messina, an ADA consumer advisor and general dentist from Ohio. "Patients should not stop taking their osteoporosis medications without speaking with their physicians."
According to the ADA, the benefits of osteoporosis medications greatly outweigh the risks of developing osteonecrosis of the jaw.