Osteoporosis and periodontitis (gum disease) are similar in that both conditions affect older men and women, and can lead to bone loss. Osteoporosis generally causes degeneration of the bones in the legs, arms and hips, while gum disease affects the gums, teeth and jaw bone. Osteoporosis affects a higher percentage of women over aged 65, while periodontitis tends to affect a slightly higher percentage of men.
Research has shown that patients who suffer from osteoporosis are three times as likely to develop low bone mass in the jaw bone. There is some evidence to suggest a link between periodontitis and osteoporosis, citing the possibility of the inflammation caused by periodontitis leading to weakened bones in the rest of the body.
When the jaw bone becomes dense, tooth loss is likely to occur, as the jawbone is what secures and anchors the teeth. Patients with low bone mass in the jaw may also have difficulty with ill fitting dentures and may expect longer than normal healing times after oral surgeries.
The exact nature of the link between oral health and osteoporosis is still not fully established. Patients suffering from osteoporosis are encouraged to schedule regular visits with their dental professional, as dental X-rays are useful for detecting low bone mass in the jaw early on. Alternately, if a patient has not been diagnosed with osteoporosis, but is showing signs of jaw bone density, it may be an indication that it is time for the patient to talk to their doctor about the state of their overall bone health.
A healthy lifestyle is a critical factor in the maintenance of both oral and bone health. Making sure that you are consuming an adequate amount of calcium, magnesium and vitamin D, or take a supplement if your diet is deficient (speak to your healthcare professional before taking supplements). Limit your consumption of caffeine, tobacco and alcohol and try to participate in moderate exercise for the maintenance of overall health.
It is wise to schedule regular checkups at any age, but if you are 65 or older, it is especially important to make time to visit your dentist and doctor. Be sure to inform both professionals if you are experiencing irritated or receding gums, loose teeth, poorly fitting dentures, or have any other oral health concerns. Be sure to inform all of your dental and healthcare providers if you have been diagnosed with or are at risk of developing osteoporosis.