While your physician can diagnose osteoporosis through bone density testing, X-rays, and a physical examination, your dentist may see signs of this degenerative disorder long before you develop other symptoms. Osteoporosis can develop in both men and women, however, it is most common in women who are nearing menopause. Here are some signs that your family dentist might observe during an oral examination that may lead to the diagnosis of osteoporosis:
Osteoporosis causes reduced bone density and brittle bones, and while it typically affects your neck, spine, hips, and knees, it can also lead to bone loss in your jaw and the bones that support your teeth.
When your jaw bone is osteoporotic, it may decrease in size, which can cause your dentures to loosen. At the first sign of ill-fitting dentures, see your dentist because this can lead to irritation, problems with chewing, difficulty speaking, and mouth sores.
Your dentist will need to take new impressions of your mouth so that the dental lab can make you a new, well-fitting set of dentures. When you have bone loss in your mouth, it may signal that you have bone loss throughout your entire body.
If the bones that support your natural teeth lose density, they will not be able to effectively hold your teeth in place. Because of this, your teeth may loosen and then eventually fall out. Your physician can prescribe medications that will help prevent future bone loss in your mouth; however, they will do little to resolve existing damage.
If you have osteoporosis, make sure you maintain a meticulous regimen of brushing and flossing, and keep your regular dental appointments. To help keep your bones strong, eat calcium-rich foods such as dairy products, broccoli, spinach, and almonds. If you are still deficient in calcium, talk to your physician about taking a combination calcium and vitamin D supplement, which will help support optimal bone health.
Osteoporosis is often the result of low estrogen levels that occur during menopause. Estrogen is essential to the well-being of your teeth and gums, and when levels decline, your gums may redden, swell, and bleed.
If your dentist notices that your gums bleed upon dental probing during an examination or routine cleaning, he or she may suspect that you are estrogen-deficient because of osteoporosis. Hormone replacement therapy will help keep your gums healthy during your menopausal years; however, it is not recommended for everyone.
If you notice any of the above, make appointments with both your family dentist and primary care physician to determine if you have osteoporosis. When you work with both professionals, you can develop an effective treatment plan that will help maintain optimal oral health and better general health.