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Postmenopausal women have a new health message to hear. Two annual dental checkups aren't enough. Older women need more, according to research findings from the Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine and the Cleveland Clinic. That message comes from a comparison study of women on and off bone-strengthening bisphosphonate therapies for osteoporosis. Leena Palomo, assistant professor of periodontics from the dental school, and Maria Clarinda Beunocamino-Francisco from the Center for Specialized Women's Health at the clinic, set out to study the long-term effects of bisphosphonate therapies on the jawbone, but came up with this new finding that impacts all women after undergoing menopause.
Twenty-eight postmenopausal women with normal bones were compared with 28 women on bisphosphonate therapies for at least two years or more. The participants (all between the ages of 51 and 80) received conebeam CT scans of their jaws and a complete periodontal check for dental plaque, bleeding, and loss of bone attachment and of the alveolar bone socket. Both groups of women had followed the recommended American Dental Association oral health standards to brush twice daily, floss and have at least two dental checkups a year.
The findings for bone strength and other markers for osteoporosis were similar for both groups. But the researchers found both groups had abnormally increased dental plaque levels, which could endanger the jawbone of normal postmenopausal women and reverse any benefits gained in bone mass. Bacterial dental plaque is the primary cause of gum disease and associated bone loss in the jaw. The findings suggest that post-menopausal women may have an increased risk for periodontal disease. If that bone loss isn't stopped, Palomo said, a woman could potentially lose her teeth. "Women also have to realize that bone disease and gum disease are two separate diseases," Palomo said. The bisphosphonate therapy isn't enough to keep jawbones strong and healthy, she added. That means it is very important to eliminate or reduce the dental plaque. Dr. Palomo advised that women may need to see the dentist as many as four times a year to control dental plaque by deep periodontal cleanings.
The research findings were announced in the article, "Is long-term bisphosphonate therapy associated with benefits to the periodontium in postmenopausal women?" that was published in the February issue of Menopause.
Source: Science Daily
Case Western Reserve University (2011, March 21). Message to postmenopausal women: 'Increase yearly dental checkups,' researcher urges. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 24, 2011, from http://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/2011/03/110310173210.htm