ADA informs patients about osteoporosis medications and oral health

March 9, 2009
ADA creates brochures with National Osteoporosis Foundation.

CHICAGO, Illinois--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, "Osteoporosis Medications and Your Dental Health," which is available in dental offices.

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% 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% 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 Matthew Messina, DDS, ADA consumer advisor, and a general dentist based in 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.

Osteoporosis is a serious condition that causes two million bone fractures a year, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation. Half of women and 20% of men older than 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis. Bisphosphonates are commonly prescribed to prevent broken bones.

Common bisphosphonate medications include alendronate (Fosamax), ibandronate (Boniva), risedonate (Actone) and zoledronic acid (Reclast).

The "Osteoporosis Medications and Your Dental Health" brochures will be available in dental offices or for purchase by dentists on the ADA's Web site at ADA.

For more information about osteonecrosis of the jaw, please visit the ADA's Web site at osteonecrosis or the National Osteoporosis Foundation's Web site at National Osteoporosis Foundation.

To read more about the ADA and osteonecrosis, go to ADA or Christensen.

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