Treating Osteoporosis May Fight Gum Disease

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largest_Happy_Senior_Female.jpgAging parents, especially women, know that osteoporosis — or low bone mass — can be a big problem. While many older men also contract osteoporosis, the condition is more common among older women. Much is still being learned about effective treatments, but a new study indicates that treating osteoporosis in women may have an unexpected benefit: healthier gums.

The Study

The study comes out of the University of Buffalo and is published in the medical journal Menopause. Entitled “Association between osteoporosis treatment and severe periodontitis in postmenopausal women,” the cross-sectional study looked at 492 postmenopausal women. Of these, 113 had undergone osteoporosis treatment for at least six months. (This treatment may have been systemic estrogen alone, or estrogen plus progestin and calcium and vitamin D supplements.)

Previous research has indicated a link between untreated osteoporosis and tooth loss. This study was looking at periodontitis, which ultimately can cause tooth loss as well as destruction of the jawbone. Periodontitis can be a problem for many aging parents, spouses, and other seniors.

Scientists discovered that “women treated with estrogen for postmenopausal osteoporosis have a lower prevalence of severe periodontitis than women not receiving treatment.” Severe periodontitis prevalence was 44% lower among the group that was receiving treatment for osteoporosis than among the group that was not.

Side Effects

The study does note, however, that despite the periodontal benefits observed,  previous studies have shown that estrogen treatment does have an association with some side effects, including an increased risk of heart disease and breast cancer.

The bottom line: Aging parents and spouses (and especially women) may face increasing dental challenges as they age. These challenges may be worsened by osteoporosis. Those with osteoporosis should discuss possible treatment options to help prevent periodontitis, whether they are receiving osteoporosis treatment or not.

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