You have probably heard the medical warnings about women's risk for osteoporosis, a condition common to women over 40 in which bones become brittle and prone to breaking. You may not know that this disease can also affect the bone density of your jaw, putting you at risk for premature tooth loss. You may also not be aware that men can develop osteoporosis too! If you suffer tooth loss because of osteoporosis, a recent study suggests that dental implants offer the most overall satisfaction for people with this condition.
Women and osteoporosis
About 200 million women in this country suffer from osteoporosis, and one in three over the age of 50 will suffer bone fractures because of the condition. Bone density naturally declines after people reach the age of 35, but plummets as women head into menopause. This is because declining estrogen levels accelerate bone breakdown. Osteoporosis has no symptoms, and a woman may not know she has this condition until she breaks a bone.
Men and osteoporosis
However, men get osteoporosis too. In fact, Dr. Elizabeth Regan, a researcher at National Jewish Health, studied the bone density of 3,000 smokers and found surprising results. Contrary to popular belief, men were a little more likely than women to have low bone density and to suffer bone fractures! In fact, one in four men is likely to break bones because of osteoporosis (remember, it's one in three for women). Dr. Regan is calling for routine bone density screening for men over 50 so that they can take preventive measures against fractures.
Osteoporosis and tooth loss
Most information about osteoporosis emphasizes the potential for broken hips, legs, or arms. However, the density of the jawbone is just as much affected as the other bones in your body. As your jawbone becomes brittle and weak, it is no longer able to support your teeth effectively. This leads to gum disease and premature tooth loss.
Dental problems compounded
Aside from tooth loss, dental problems are exacerbated for people with osteoporosis. These problems include
inability to achieve proper fits from dentures
complications from dental procedures
periodontal (gum) disease
In conclusion, osteoporosis has profound effects on oral health.
Dental implants preferred
If you have lost teeth because of osteoporosis, a recent study by Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) seems to point to dental implants as the best solution. Researchers studied various indicators of life satisfaction in 237 women who had dental implants, fixed partial dentures (one false tooth connected to crowns on two adjacent teeth), removable dentures, and no tooth replacements at all. These satisfaction indicators included occupational, physical, emotional, and sexual health. Women with dental implants reported the highest satisfaction levels of all groups. This seems to be because dental implants look and function just like natural teeth. There's no embarrassment from missing teeth or slipping dentures, and implant patients can eat their favorite foods without restriction. These measures of satisfaction would seemingly apply to men as well.
Along with dental implants for missing teeth, there are other ways you can manage osteoporosis.
take a calcium supplement approved by your doctor
either spend 20 minutes outside in the sunshine each day or take a vitamin D supplement
eat foods rich in both calcium and vitamin D (calcium facilitates the absorption of vitamin D)
exercise regularly, making sure to include weight-bearing choices such as walking, hiking, and jogging
don't drink in excess
All of these will help increase your bone density and reduce your risk of fractures.
If you suffer from osteoporosis and have suffered premature tooth loss, consider getting dental implants. As the Case Western study shows, you will likely experience the greatest satisfaction if you choose this option. You won't have to deal with loose or slipping dentures. You won't have to take dentures out at night to clean them. And, best of all, you won't have gaping holes in your mouth that cause embarrassment. Talk to your dentist about dental implants today.