What is Osteoporosis?

“Osteoporosis is a disease that weakens the bones to the point where they break easily” (NIA, 2017, para. 1). It develops when the bone mineral density and mass decrease which leads to decreased strength and increased brittleness (NIH, 2019).


How Does it Relate to Oral Health?

The decreased bone density can occur in the jaw and results in alveolar bone resorption (Kane, 2017). This resorption then leads to larger periodontal pockets, providing a place for bacteria to invade (Kane, 2017). This then initiates the chain reaction of bone loss with chronic infection. The relationship between osteoporosis is not a causal one, but can lead to a higher risk of developing periodontal disease or exacerbation of the disease if already present.

Osteoporosis is commonly treated with the use of bisphosphonates but this group of medications have been linked with osteonecrosis of the jaw (NIH, 2018). Research has found the greatest risk to be from IV administration for cancer treatment, but the risk is still present for oral administration like in osteoporosis (NIH, 2018).


How to Prevent?

Eating foods that are rich with calcium and vitamin D can help reduce the risk of weakened bones (NIA, 2017). Performing regular exercise that requires bearing weight will also help build muscle mass and balance, decreasing the risk of falling and causing bone fractures (NIH, 2017). Smoking should be avoided because nicotine has been shown to cause changes in osteoblasts (bone builders) that result in cell death (Maalouf, 2021).  Ensure alcohol use is minimal because it interferes with the calcium and vitamin D balance (NIH, Nov 2018).

Maintaining excellent oral hygiene and frequent dental hygiene therapies will help maintain a low bacteria load, reducing the risk of initiating or exacerbating periodontal disease in a client with osteoporosis. When clients come to the dental office, radiographs are typically taken to evaluate for carious lesions, but it can be the first step to osteoporosis detection (NIH, 2018). Dental professionals see these clients more frequently so can recognize the change in the bone between radiographs early and direct them to their doctor for more testing.

 By Merilee Kalyta

Kane S. (2017). The effects of oral health on systemic health. General dentistry, 65(6), 30–34. https://www.agd.org/docs/default-source/self-instruction-(gendent)/gendent_nd17_aafp_kane.pdf


Maalouf, T. (2021). Smoking and osteoporosis: How smoking affects bone health. Very Well Health. https://www.verywellhealth.com/smoking-and-osteoporosis-5201866


NIA-National Institute on Aging. (2017). Osteporosis. U.S. Department of Health & Human services. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/osteoporosis#:~:text=Osteoporosis%20is%20a%20disease%20that,losing%20strength%20for%20many%20years.


NIH. (Nov, 2018). What people recovering from alcoholism need to know about osteoporosis. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. https://www.bones.nih.gov/health-info/bone/osteoporosis/conditions-behaviors/alcoholism#:~:text=The%20link%20between%20alcohol%20and%20osteoporosis,-Alcohol%20negatively%20affects&text=To%20begin%20with%2C%20excessive%20alcohol,vitamin%20essential%20for%20calcium%20absorption.


NIH. (2018). Oral health and bone disease. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. https://www.bones.nih.gov/health-info/bone/bone-health/oral-health/oral-health-and-bone-disease


NIH. (Oct, 2019). Osteoporosis overview. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. https://www.bones.nih.gov/health-info/bone/osteoporosis/overview


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