One of the critical things about being a dentist is recognizing and acting on the role that dental health plays in the health of the entire body. Part of being a great dentist is communicating with patients and other health providers to make sure every aspect of health is covered, and none of them interfere with each other.
What is osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis can happen to anyone, but by far the most common group of people to suffer osteoporosis are women over the age of 50. Bone is a dynamic, living tissue that is constantly being broken down and built back up by its special cells, osteoblasts and osteoclasts. When bone tissue is broken down but not replaced (as can happen if there is a lack of calcium and vitamin D in the diet), the bones become weak and brittle; this condition is called osteoporosis.
These changes, resulting in osteoporosis, can be subtle and often go unnoticed. In many cases, a woman may not be diagnosed with osteoporosis until after she has experienced an unusual fracture resulting from her weakened bones. At that point, the disease has gone very far and will compromise her quality of life.
Osteoporosis can be detected during regular dental visits.
Fortunately, there is more than one way to detect bone loss than waiting for an inexplicable fracture! Dentists are on the look out for signs of osteoporosis, particularly in patients whose demographic put them at higher risk.
Here’s how your dentist, Dr. Williams, may look for osteoporosis:
- By taking detailed medical history, this will include risk factors for diseases like osteoporosis.
- Clinical examination revealing tooth loss or periodontal disease may be an indicator of osteoporosis.
- X-rays can reveal bone loss; because primary care physicians don’t do x-rays once a year (as dentists do, to monitor oral health), this is another major way that dentists can spot signs of osteoporosis.
- Noting that a patient’s dentures are ill-fitting, or need to be replaced frequently. Bone loss makes dentures hard to use and hard to fit– your dentist will be on the look out for this sign of osteoporosis if you report problems with dentures.
If your dentist does notice signs of osteoporosis, a referral to a specializing physician will be made. Health professionals work within a vast network of specialties to provide patients with the best care possible. Our job as oral health professionals is to take advantage of our regular patient visits to monitor for other conditions detectable by the state of oral health.
At Gregory A. Williams, DMD, we are honored to be part of your medical health team and look forward to seeing you on your next visit!