We all know that bone density can deteriorate as we age, but what does that have to do with your teeth? You might be surprised to learn that osteoporosis and our oral health are actually closely related.
Osteoporosis is a medical condition that occurs when bones become weak and brittle and are more prone to breaking. This often occurs as we age and is more common in women over 50.
Your teeth may look like and share some characteristics with your bones, but they are not, in fact, made of bone. So what can your teeth tell you about your bone health?
Your jawbone is the structural support of all of your teeth. When you suffer from bone density loss due to osteoporosis, the strength of the bone in your jaw can become compromised. This can wreak havoc on your smile.
Your jaw bone anchors your teeth, and if the strength of that bone tissue deteriorates, unfortunately, teeth can become loose and eventually be lost. In fact, osteoporosis can significantly increase your chances of losing one or more teeth. This can become a downward spiral since once a tooth is lost, the lack of structure can cause further bone loss in the jaw. Neighboring teeth become unstable, loose, and can also be lost.
There appears to be a statistical connection between osteoporosis and periodontal (gum) disease. While the connection is not quite clear, it is believed that the deterioration of the jaw bone makes the area more susceptible to the bacteria that cause gum disease and gingivitis. Gum disease can cause many problems, including bleeding or receding gums, abscesses, tooth loss, and additional bone loss.
If you wear dentures, osteoporosis can cause persistent issues. The loss of bone structure and resulting loose teeth can make your dentures fit improperly. Ill-fitting dentures can cause discomfort, sores or cuts in the gum (opening the door for infection), and even potentially contribute to additional bone loss.
Osteoporosis can be silent and progress slowly. Many patients don’t know they have it until they suffer a dangerous fracture. Because of the connection between osteoporosis and oral health, dentists are often the first to notice you may have a problem. The good news is that this might help you to recognize and manage osteoporosis before you endure a broken bone.
In addition to screening for signs such as loose teeth and periodontal disease, we take annual X-rays of your teeth at your regular dental appointments. Images of your jaw bone are captured in these X-rays, and bone loss can sometimes be detected. We may suggest you talk to your doctor and seek out a bone-density scan to investigate further.
If you are concerned about osteoporosis and want to be proactive about your bone health, there are steps you can take to protect your bones.
Calcium supports bone health, and Vitamin D is necessary for your body to absorb calcium. Dairy, almonds, kale, broccoli, and soy products all contain calcium. Vitamin D can be absorbed from the sun and can also be found in fatty fish (such as salmon, tuna, whitefish, and trout), eggs, and mushrooms. Getting calcium and Vitamin D in a daily supplement is also a great idea.
Exercise such as weight training, walking, and running can all support your bone health. Trying to get some exercise every day is not only good for your bones but also for your overall health.
Not only will quitting tobacco improve your health in general, but since tobacco use can contribute significantly to your risk of osteoporosis, it is crucial to bone health. In addition, it may be a good idea to avoid alcohol and caffeine as they have been tied to decreased bone density as well.
Scheduling your twice-a-year dental checkups may help detect the signs of osteoporosis early. Contact our office today to make your appointment!