Message to Postmenopausal Women: Increase Yearly Dental Check-ups!

Bisphosphonate Therapies for Osteoporosis Linked to Plaque Build-up

Postmenopausal women have a new health message to hear: 2 annual dental check-ups aren’t enough. Older women need more, according to research findings from the Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine and the Cleveland Clinic that come from a study of women both on and off bone-strengthening bisphosphonate therapies for osteoporosis.

Leena Palomo, DDS, assistant professor of periodontics at the dental school, and Maria Clarinda Beunocamino-Francisco, MD, from the Center for Specialized Women’s Health at the clinic, set out to study the long term effects of bisphosphonate therapies on the jawbone, but came up with these findings, which impact all women after undergoing menopause.

Their findings were announced in the article “Is Long-Term Bisphosphonate Therapy Associated With Benefits to the Periodontium in Postmenopausal Women?” that was published in the February issue of Menopause.

Twenty-eight postmenopausal women with normal bones were compared to 28 women on bisphosphonate therapies for at least 2 years or more. The participants (all between the ages of 51 and 80) received cone-beam computed tomographic scans of their jaws and complete periodontal checkup for dental plaque, bleeding, and loss of attachment and of bone around each tooth. Both groups followed American Dental Association oral health standards to brush twice daily, floss, daily, and have at least 2 dental check-ups each year. The findings for bone strength and other markers for osteoporosis were similar for both groups, but the researchers found the bisphosphonate therapy group had increased dental plaque levels, which could endanger the jawbone of postmenopausal women and reverse any benefits gained in bone mass.

While women from both groups had similar bone health results and women on the long term oral bone-strengthening therapies showed no signs of bone death, they had abnormal amounts of plaque build-up. Dr Palomo said postmenopausal women may need to see a dentist as many as four times a year to control dental plaque with deep periodontal cleanings, especially if taking bisphosphonate therapy. “Women also have to realize that bone disease and gum disease are 2 separate diseases.” Bisphosphonate therapy isn’t enough to keep jawbones healthy, you also have to remove the dental plaque

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