Osteoporosis is a major concern for many older men and women. It’s estimated that more than 40 million people either already suffer from the disease or are at risk for developing it. Recent research suggests a link between osteoporosis and bone loss in the jaw. When bone loss in the jaw occurs, teeth that are usually supported and anchored by the jawbone may become loose; tooth loss may occur.
Osteoporosis means “porous bone.” Normal human bone looks like a honeycomb, but bones affected by osteoporosis have holes and spaces that are much bigger. This means the bones have lost density or mass. As bones become less dense, they become weaker and more brittle making the simplest chores like picking up a newspaper potentially hazardous. Something like picking up a child or even sneezing could cause a break.
Bones are living tissue and are constantly being absorbed and replaced. Osteoporosis occurs when the body cannot create new bone quickly enough to keep up with the removal of old bone. Osteoporosis can affect any bone in the human body, including the jawbone. It can occur in men and women, but it most often occurs in Caucasian women over the age of 65.
Women with osteoporosis are three times more likely to experience tooth loss than those who do not have the disease. Because osteoporosis can occur in any bone in the body, the jawbone is susceptible to the disease. Low bone density in the jaw can result in loose teeth and tooth loss. Women who have osteoporosis may have trouble with loose or ill-fitting dentures as the bone is absorbed but not replaced over time.
Women with periodontal disease and osteoporosis are especially susceptible to tooth loss. Studies have recently shown a strong relationship between periodontitis, osteoporosis, and tooth loss. It has been suggested that the loss of bone density in the jaw may leave teeth more susceptible to the bacteria that cause gum disease.
Steps Towards Healthy Bones
Preserving the health of your bones is vital to your overall and oral health. Here are some steps you can take to ensure that you have optimal bone health:
- Eat a balanced diet rich with vitamin D and calcium.
- Exercise regularly. Weight-bearing activities like walking, jogging, dancing, and weight training are best for keeping bones strong.
- Do not smoke; limit alcohol consumption.
- Report any issues with loose teeth, detached or receding gums, or ill-fitting dentures to your dentist immediately.