Osteoporosis is a disease which leads to the thinning of bone tissue and loss of bone density over time. It affects about 10 million Americans, 8 million of whom are women. The disease affects more women than cancer, heart disease, or stroke combined. Many people are treated for osteoporosis with a group of prescription drugs called oral bisphosphonates (bis- fos -fo-nates).
Recent news reports have alarmed and confused many patients taking osteoporosis medications. That’s because uncommon complications have been linked to oral bisphosphonates. The drugs have been associated with osteonecrosis (os-tee-oh-ne- kro -sis) of the jaw (ONJ), a rare but potentially serious condition that can cause severe destruction of the jawbone.
There are two types of bisphosphonates, oral and intravenous. Based on the latest scientific information, the incidence of ONJ appears to be rare in people taking oral bisphosphonates. To date, only about 6 percent of all ONJ cases have been linked to the therapy used in osteoporosis. Most cases of ONJ have been seen in cancer patients who receive treatment with intravenous bisphosphonates, meaning the drugs are administered directly into a vein. The true risk posed by oral bisphosphonates remains uncertain, but researchers agree that it appears to be very small.
If you are taking an oral bisphosphonates, it is important to inform our so we can update your health history form. Given the significant benefits of these medications to treat osteoporosis, your physician may recommend that you continue taking your medication despite the slight risk of ONJ. While neither your physician nor I can eliminate the risk of ONJ, it’s important to point out that regular dental visits and maintaining excellent oral hygiene are key in helping to avoid dental complications.
If you have any questions, or if you would like to schedule an appointment, please call us at (209)473-8884.