Most people realize that the mouth is as much a part of the body as the hip and leg bones. But did you know that diseases, aging and medications that affect the hip bone or other bones also affect your jaw bone? Osteoporosis means "porous bone," less density, less hardness. In your lifetime, your bone remodels, but as we age, the rate of bone growth decreases. What causes osteoporosis?
The most significant factor leading to osteoporosis is menopause. Other factors are genetics, age, activity and nutrition. Osteoporosis is more common and significant in white women and Asian women. Unfortunately, when a person loses bone mass, it affects your jaw bone that supports your teeth. If you have osteoporosis and periodontal disease (bone and gum infection) you'll lose the supporting bone that holds your teeth in place at a faster rate.
What can you do? Diet, exercise and perhaps a bone density scan in consultation with your physician may be in order. How does diet play a role in the health of the bone in your mouth? The nutrition that supports bone growth also resists osteoporosis. Proper nutrition centers around protein, calcium and vitamin D. But you also need to consider exercise in this mix, because bone that is stimulated thru exercise will respond by thickening.
You can see this bone thickening from exercise by looking at astronauts. Astronauts lose up to 30% of their bone mass during prolonged space travel, when they're in a zero gravity environment. Once the astronaut returns to earth, the astronauts regain almost all of their bone with exercise and movement against the pull of gravity.
Like astronauts, I see patients with periodontal disease regain bone density with the placement of implants. Once the implant is "functionally loaded," meaning you're putting stress on your new crown or restoration, the bone around the implant is essentially getting exercised. This is especially true for implants that are placed in a bone graft. The bone density increases once the implant is restored.
What else can you do to prevent bone loss, in addition to exercise, diet and mineral supplementation? You can prevent jaw bone destruction by treating periodontal disease (gum and bone disease). There are new ways of treating periodontal disease that you should be informed about. Did you know that there are specific tests that can be done with a simple saline rinse and spit?
This easy oral rinse testing can identify the particular bacteria that are causing your periodontal disease. You can be treated with specific antibiotics targeting your bacteria mix and understand the best treatment for your disease. Also, you can test for the genetic predisposition of your children and grandchildren's hereditary tendency to get periodontal disease. Your family can then be proactive in the health of their teeth, gum and bone. Lastly, this testing can tell you if you've been exposed to the HPV virus strains that are causing head and neck cancer.
The great news is, times have changed in dentistry. You don't have to lose teeth or jawbone and you can be healthier. For more information on this innovative treatment process, contact me at Rhonda@UpTownDentalGigHarbor.com
-Rhonda R. Savage, DDS