Gum Disease & Osteoporosis
Gum (Periodontal) Disease and Osteoporosis
Led by Jean Wactawski-Wende, researchers at the University of Buffalo, Departments of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and Social and Preventive Medicine at the University of New York at Buffalo, reported that most people diagnosed with periodontal disease may be at a higher risk of underlying osteoporosis. This study, conducted in 1995 and published in the Journal of Periodontology, is the first large-scale assessment of the relationship between bone metabolism and oral health. This study involved more than 2,500 postmenopausal women and demonstrated that if you have low bone density, or osteoporosis, you're at an 86% greater risk of having gum disease, which is the major cause of tooth loss in those over 35.
By the same respect, periodontal disease in postmenopausal women may indicate the presence of osteoporosis. Researchers compared bone-mineral density and two measures of oral health in the women who participated in the survey. The results indicate a very strong relationship between the advanced form of gum disease that causes bone loss, gum-attachment loss, tooth loss, and osteoporosis.
Can Treating Gum Disease Help Combat Osteoporosis
The authors reported that if the relationship remains strong in further studies, it is possible that a routine dental X-ray could be used to screen for bone loss in the upper and lower jaws. In addition, dentists could provide interventions for treating and preventing gum disease, the main cause of bone loss in the jaw bones. It is believed that eliminating gum disease would also help to combat osteoporosis.
This landmark study is important because osteoporosis and gum/periodontal disease are serious public health concerns for tens of millions of North Americans. Osteoporosis affects more than 20 million people in the U.S. and accounts for nearly 2 million fractures a year and gum disease affects over 80% of the population.
Other studies have suggested that a link between osteoporosis and bone loss in the jaw. Researchers suggest that osteoporosis may lead to tooth loss because the density of the bone that supports the teeth may be decreased, which means the teeth no longer have a solid foundation. As you can imagine, when this effect is combined with advanced gum disease, bone loss will be accelerated.
Hormonal Replacement Therapy and Gum Disease
It has been suggested that hormone replacement therapy may offer some protection. A study published in the August 1999 Journal of Periodontology concludes that estrogen supplementation in women within five years of menopause slows the progression of periodontal disease. Researchers have suspected that estrogen deficiency and osteopenia/osteoporosis speed the progression of oral bone loss following menopause, which could lead to tooth loss. The study concluded that estrogen supplementation may lower gingival inflammation and the rate of attachment loss (destruction of the fibers and bone that support the teeth) in women with signs of osteoporosis, thus helping to protect the teeth.
While more studies need to be done it is clear that regardless of the relationship of gum disease to osteoporosis, you will reduce the effects of gum disease on overall health if you commit to an effective oral hygiene program that treats, heals, and prevents gum disease.