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.

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This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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Common Conditions For ADULTS 55+

  • Gum disease
    This potentially serious condition occurs when the gum tissues surrounding teeth become infected because of a buildup of plaque on the teeth and gums. Gingivitis is the first stage of gum disease and is recognizable by swollen, red or bleeding gums. Gum disease is a concern for older adults for a number of reasons, including plaque building up on teeth and gums from not developing proper oral health care habits earlier in life.

  • Tooth or root decay
    Even at 55-plus years, adults can still develop tooth or root decay if gum recession has occurred. It is important for older adults to effectively clean the gums, the teeth and exposed root surfaces to remove dental plaque and food debris.

  • Sensitive teeth
    At some point, we've all tossed back a nice, cold glass of water only to grimace at that sharp, tingling sensation in our teeth. A number of factors cause tooth sensitivity, including brushing too aggressively with a hard-bristled toothbrush, worn tooth enamel, and a cracked or fractured tooth.