Osteoporosis is one of the scourges of old age. The bone density of sufferers decreases with time, many to the point that the bones become very susceptible to fracture. As many as 10 million Americans are affected by the disease and as many as 34 million others have a high risk of getting it. There have been a number of studies that have shown an increase in tooth loss in those who are afflicted with osteoporosis. The alveolar process, the portion of the jaw bone that holds the teeth, can be affected by the loss of bone density, thus contributing to tooth loss. Women are affected three times more than men. Periodontitis is a chronic infection that affects the gums and jaw bone. An interaction between toxins coming from the bacteria that reside on the teeth and the body’s immune system will cause the bone to break down. Research is beginning to point to a relationship between the less dense bone of osteoporosis victims and a quicker breakdown of the supporting bone leading to tooth loss. To help combat osteoporosis, there are a number of medications that are currently on the market. They can be a big help in reducing bone loss, but they come with a potentially serious side effect called bisphosphonate osteonecrosis (BON). BON can cause bone death after surgical dental procedures. These areas of dead bone can be extremely difficult to get the mucosal covering to heal properly. It is extremely important that patients tell their dentist that they are taking these medications.

Scaling and Root Planing

A gum procedure called scaling and root planing has saved millions of teeth. Periodontitis (gum disease) attacks the bone that holds the teeth in place. If left unchecked, it will eventually lead to tooth loss. If the disease is detected in its early stage, scaling and root planing can be a big help in altering the course of the disease. Periodontitis is caused by an interaction between bacteria that reside on the teeth and the body’s immune system. If the bacteria is removed on a daily basis by brushing and flossing, the disease usually does not occur. However, if the home care is not good, the bacteria will wreak havoc.

Over time, the bacteria will calcify into a material called calculus (tartar). The calculus is very porous giving a safe haven to new bacteria, so even if flossing is started, it will not clean away the bacteria residing in the tartar. Scaling will remove these deposits from the teeth.

Root planing will smooth the roots and remove diseased cementum (the live covering on the root surface). Scaling and root planing will allow the body to heal the gums and give someone a fresh start. However, the disease will return if the daily home care is not done.