When dentists observe bone loss in the jaw, it may be a sign of bone loss in other parts of the body, signalling osteoporosis, a disease that leads to a loss of bone density. A dentist may be the first health professional to suspect a patient has osteoporosis, based on the patient’s medical history and the results of clinical and X-ray examination. If osteoporosis is suspect, the dentist can then refer the patient to his or her physician for medical assessment and any subsequent treatment.
A patient with osteoporosis who experiences bone loss in the jaw may also be at risk of bone loss around the teeth. Studies support the hypothesis that women with low bone mineral density tend to have fewer teeth.
In addition, if a post-menopausal woman frequently complains that her dentures do not fit properly, osteoporosis may be the culprit. Studies have shown post-menopausal women with osteoporosis needed new dentures three times more often after age 50 than women without osteoporosis. Bone loss may become so severe that it may be impossible to create functional dentures. Without the aid of dentures to chew many types of food, older patients may suffer severe nutritional deficiencies.