Let’s begin by getting clear about Osteoporosis and Periodontal disease. According to a study undertaken by the University of Melbourne in 2007, at least 2.2 million Australians have an osteoporosis related condition. Osteoporosis is a disease that affects the skeletal structure. Those affected see a deterioration of bone mass to low levels, which results in reduced bone strength. Knock on effects include an increased risk of fractures and a continued deterioration of bone mineral density. Evidence shows that osteoporosis can also have consequences for oral bone density and health.
The onset of periodontal (gum) disease is caused by a number of factors, including bacterial infection and inflammation of the gums (gingivitis). If left unchecked, gingivitis can advance to periodontal disease, causing the gums to recede from the teeth.
In the small space created by the recession of the gum line, infection takes hold more strongly, forcing an immune response from the body, which in turn results in the breakdown of bone and connective tissue responsible for holding teeth in place.
The Relationship Between Osteoporosis and Periodontal Disease
As mentioned above, evidence suggests that osteoporosis results in a reduction in oral bone density. It follows that those affected by osteoporosis may be at greater risk to the effects of periodontal disease.
In fact, patients with osteoporosis are seven times more likely to develop periodontitis.
This is not to say that a link exists between osteoporosis and the onset of gum disease itself. Inflamed and infected gums caused by plaque and tartar build-up are a product of poor oral hygiene. However, because osteoporosis is so widespread, those affected are at much greater risk of tooth loss and bone damage, should periodontal disease occur.
A Further Link, and an Interesting Development
Whilst it is fair to say that scientific research into the precise relationship between osteoporosis and periodontal disease is ongoing, the evidence available has led to an interesting set of tentative ideas. The evidence suggests, for example, that certain treatments of osteoporosis positively affect periodontal health and disease cessation.
So too might it be possible to diagnose osteoporosis at a preliminary stage by observing the quality of bone strength in a patient’s mouth. Why so? Because observations have been made that indicate a link between the susceptibility of bones in the mouth and the bones in the rest of the body. This means that dentists can now take note of oral bone density, potentially leading to an early referral for the treatment of osteoporosis. In turn, should a patient’s osteoporosis find satisfactory treatment, the effects of periodontal disease ought to become more manageable.
Why a Good Dentist is Important
As touched on above, proper oral care has a vital role to play in your greater health and wellbeing. The effects of periodontal disease are serious. Not only is it thought that the bacteria involved in periodontal disease might also contribute to arterial plaque build-up, links continue to be made between gum disease and other ailments, including heart disease and strokes.
Whilst it remains crucial to note that continued research in these areas is ongoing and far from definitive, it’s at least clear that the correct professional dental care can help alleviate the onset of conditions such as osteoporosis.
With this in mind, choosing the right dentist is highly important. You ought to be assured that your dentist is aware of the links between periodontal disease and osteoporosis. A professional dentist should be able to assess the strength of your bones by measuring the strength of your teeth. If the required degree of weakness is recognised, then you should be able to trust your dentist to provide a course of action to address the problem, and to work toward the maximisation of your overall health.
- Ho, Dr. Danny Sai-Wah. “Osteoporosis and Periodontal Disease.” Periodontology 1 (2011): 22-26.