Periodontal disease is characterized by a progressive loss of support in the gums and jawbone. It is the number one cause of tooth loss among adults in the developed world. It occurs when toxins found in oral bacteria infect the soft tissues surrounding the teeth. Left untreated, the infection spreads to the jaw bone and may ultimately result in tooth loss.
Osteoporosis is a metabolic condition most frequently occurring in postmenopausal women. It is characterized by bone fragility, low bone mass and a decrease in bone mineral density. Numberous studies identify a link between periodontal disease and osteoporosis.
Reasons for the Connection
Research into osteoporosis and periodontal disease supports the following connections:
Estrogen deficiency – The estrogen deficiency accompanying menopause speeds the progression of oral bone loss.
Low mineral bone density – Bones already weakend by osteoporosis are increasingly susceptible to the resorptive processes seen in periodontal disease.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Once both diagnoses are made, your periodontist and your physician can work together to ensure the most effective course of treatment.
Here are some methods commonly used to diagnose and treat the diseases:
Routine dental x-rays – X-rays are an effective tool when screening for loss of bone support.
Estrogen supplements – Post-menopausal women taking estrogen supplements exhibit less inflammation and peridontal disease.
Assessment of risk factors – Periodontists and physicians can monitor patients at an increased risk of developing both diseases by assessing family history, medical history, X-rays, current medications and modifiable risk factors. Tobacco use, obesity, poor diet and estrogen deficiency can all be managed using a combination of education, support and prescription medications.
If you have any questions about periodontal disease and its connection with osteoporosis, please ask your periodontist.