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News / March 14, 2011

Older women need more dental check ups

by Guy Hiscott

Women should increase the number of times they have a dental check up in a year once they’ve undergon the menopause.
This advice follows a comparison study of women on and off bone-strengthening bisphosphonate therapies for osteoporosis.
The study, by the Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine and the Cleveland Clinic, compares 28 post-menopausal women with 28 women on bisphosphonate therapies for at least two years or more.
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 instead came up with new findings that impacts on all women who are post menopause.
The participants of the study – between the ages of 51 and 80 – received cone beam 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 oral health standards to brush twice daily, floss and have at least two dental check ups a year.
The findings for bone strength and other markers for osteoporosis were similar for both groups.
But the researchers found both groups had increased dental plaque levels, which could endanger the jawbone of normal post-menopausal women and reverse any benefits gained in bone mass.
While women from both groups had similar bone health results and women on the long-term oral bone-strengthening therapies showed no signs of bone death, they had abnormal dental plaque.
Their 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.
Menopausal women at risk for osteoporosis also are at risk for periodontal disease, which affects bone that anchors teeth, says Professor Palomo.
A prior study showed that short-term use of bisphosphonates had increased bone density in the jaw.
But over time, if the plaque is left on teeth, it obviously triggers the processes for gum disease.
If that bone loss isn’t stopped, Professor Palomo said, a woman could potentially lose her teeth.
She added that those cytokines also set in motion the process that weakens bones in osteoporosis.
Professor Palomo said women may need to see the dentist as many as four times a year to control dental plaque by deep periodontal cleanings.
‘Women also have to realise that bone disease and gum disease are two separate diseases,’ Professor Palomo said.
The bisphosphonate therapy isn’t enough to keep jawbones strong and healthy, she added, that means getting rid of the dental plaque.
Journal reference
Leena Palomo, Maria Clarinda A. Buencamino-Francisco, John J. Carey, Mala Sivanandy, Holly Thacker. Is long-term bisphosphonate therapy associated with benefits to the periodontium in postmenopausal women? Menopause, 2011; 18 (2): 164-170 DOI: 10.1097/gme.0b013e3181e8e2a2