By Dr. Piero
Women who are going through or have completed menopause are more at risk for osteoporosis. A recent study reported in Menopause – The Journal of the North American Menopause Society found that those at risk of osteoporosis are also at risk of periodontal disease. The word osteoporosis means porous bones. As aging occurs, the body loses minerals, especially calcium. The bones become weaker and are more susceptible to breaking. Although osteoporosis is usually associated with backs, hips and wrists, the jaw is also a bone affected by osteoporosis.
Bone anchors the teeth and there is a loss of bone density with aging. With osteoporosis, loss of bone density may affect the bone surrounding teeth causing them to become loose. Osteoporosis is only one factor in healthy jaws. Menopausal women, according to the study, showed abnormal dental plaque (a precursor to periodontal disease).
Periodontal disease is another factor in healthy jaws. The cause of periodontal disease stems from the plaque-producing bacteria, found among the almost 500 species of bacteria in the mouth. The body recognizes the bacteria in the mouth as a chronic infection. The body sends blood cells via capillaries to the infected area and cytokines are released which in turn causes the body to produce more blood cells to physically fight the infection. Chronic infection results in messages or cytokines being continuously sent out and blood cells being continuously produced. This is stress on your entire body, taxing your immune system and now an association has been found with cytokines and osteoporosis.
The premise of the study in Menopause magazine was that the cytokines stimulate osteoclasts which degrade bone. The cytokines in periodontal disease are degrading the bone. So if you can treat the periodontal disease, this will lower the cytokines and slow down osteoporosis.
In the presence of cytokines in the blood stream a red flag should go up for physicians that there is an infection somewhere in the body. It has been now known for some time that this marker is as important for heart disease as cholesterol. This new study highlights the importance of cytokines and how it affects bone density.
Treating osteoporosis with long-term bisphosphonate seems to protect against some of the bone loss in the body including the jaw. And getting professional dental cleaning four times a year may be a good combination for keeping jaws and teeth healthy, especially for postmenopausal women.
– Dr. Piero, a Holland, MI dentist for over thirty years, is the inventor of Dental Air Force®. Articles published are on periodontal health related to heart disease, respiratory health, diabetes, strokes, and other systemic diseases. He is the Executive Editor for Journal of Experimental Dental Science, a contributing author to Hospital Infection Control: Clinical Guidelines