Brittle bone and dental health

By Dr Oh Xue Ling BDS (Adelaide)

What is brittle bone?

Brittle bone, or medically known as Osteoporosis, is a condition which results in bones becoming less dense and more fragile. Bones can become so brittle that a simple fall can easily cause fractures. It can happen to both men and women, but is more common in older females at menopause age. In Singapore, there has been a rising incidence of osteoporosis, especially with an aging population. Some common causes of it include age, hormones, diet, certain medications.


What are some symptoms of brittle bone (osteoporosis)?

Many do not realise that they have osteoporosis as there are no obvious signs and symptoms. Most are diagnosed only after a fracture from a fall. However, some of the first symptoms can actually be detected in the mouth. These include:

  1. Increased loss of bone in the jaw area and around teeth

Comparisons of past dental x-rays will allow the dentist to record and note any bone loss in the mouth. Loss of bone in the mouth can be indicative of bone loss in other parts of the body. When boss loss becomes severe, teeth may start to shake and can even fall out.

  1. Loose or ill fitting dentures

As bone is gradually resorbing, existing dentures may not be able to fit as well, resulting in loose dentures that are unable to function well.

  1. Gum disease

Gum disease can result in the loss of structure around the teeth, and contribute to bone loss in the mouth.

What if I am diagnosed with osteoporosis?

If you are diagnosed with osteoporosis, it is crucial to have regular dental checkups. It is also equally important to let us know what are the medications you are taking for your osteoporosis, so we can make adjustments in your treatment.

Bisphosphonates are commonly prescribed to osteoporotic patients to treat and help prevent fractures of bones. However, they are also commonly associated with a condition in the jaw known as osteonecrosis.

What is osteonecrosis?

Osteonecrosis, or “bone death”, is a condition when parts of the jaw bones die and become exposed in the mouth. Whilst it can happen spontaneously, there is a higher incidence of it occurring after dental treatments such as extractions of teeth. Hence, dental extractions are typically avoided for patients with osteoporosis if possible.

Some of the symptoms of osteonecrosis can include:

  • Pain around the gums or jaw
  • Non-healing wounds from recent extractions
  • Exposed bone
  • Loose teeth
  • Bad breath

Thus, it is crucial that your dentist is aware of your condition, and the type of medicine you are on for your osteoporosis for a more holistic dental care.

Leave a Comment