Osteoporosis is one of the leading causes of bone fracture in men and women over the age of 65. It is estimated that 40 million people are either already suffering from osteoporosis or are at risk to develop it. Recent research links osteoporosis to bone loss in the jaw, resulting in the potential loosening or loss of teeth.
What is osteoporosis?
The term osteoporosis means “porous bone.” Bone tissue has a honeycomb structure, which allows bones to be both lightweight and exceptionally strong. Bones are made of living tissue whose cells are constantly being reabsorbed and replenished by the body. Osteoporosis occurs when the rate of replacement fails to keep up with the rate of absorption, leaving large spaces and gaps in the bone structure. Such gaps decrease bone density and strength, making bones more brittle and increasing the risk for fracture and breakage. Everyday tasks such as sitting, standing, picking up a child, or even a hard cough pose a threat to potentially causing a break. Osteoporosis occurs in both men and women, yet is most prevalent in Caucasian women over age 65.
Osteoporosis and Oral Health
Osteoporosis can occur in any bone throughout the body, including the jaw bone. A woman suffering from osteoporosis has a three times greater risk of tooth loss than a woman with healthy bone density. Decreased density in the jaw bone can cause loose teeth and potentially tooth loss. Additionally, osteoporosis may cause a woman to struggle with improper denture fit as jaw bone tissue is depleted over time.
Patients with both periodontal disease and osteoporosis are at even greater risk of tooth loss. Research shows a strong correlation between periodontitis, osteoporosis, and bone loss. Recent studies have also suggested that diminished jaw bone density can make the bone more susceptible to the bacterial infections of gum disease. Further research is required to better understand the interactions of these conditions as well as the impact of additional risk factors.
Steps towards Healthy Bones
Your bone health is vital to your overall health and quality of life as well as your oral health. Here are some basic steps you can take towards maintaining bone health:
- Eat a balanced diet rich in vitamin D and calcium
- Exercise regularly. Weight-bearing activities such as walking, dancing and weight training are best to promote bone strength
- Do not smoke
- Limit alcohol consumption
- Report any signs of loose teeth, receding or detached gums, or a change in your denture fit to your dentist immediately