How treating brittle bones prevents gum disease

(Credit: Tamaki Sono/Flickr)

Treatment for osteoporosis may also help prevent gum disease, according to a new study that looked at the prevalence of periodontitis in postmenopausal women.

Women over the age of 50 who took estrogen for osteoporosis—in which bones become weak and brittle from tissue loss—were 44 percent less likely to have severe periodontitis than women who did not receive the treatment.

The lack of estrogen, a natural consequence of menopause, places women at risk of osteoporosis as they age. To counter these effects, some women get prescriptions for estrogen therapy along with supplements of calcium and vitamin D.

While previous studies have investigated the relationship between osteoporosis and tooth loss, few have examined the link between estrogen therapy and periodontitis, a disease that can ultimately lead to tooth loss and destruction of the jaw bone.

“These results help confirm the findings of previous studies that suggested that estrogen therapy to prevent osteoporosis could also play a role in the prevention of gum disease,” says Frank Scannapieco, professor of oral biology at the University at Buffalo.

“By advancing our understanding of how this treatment can impact oral health, we can better work to improve the bone health and quality of life of female patients.”

Researchers examined nearly 500 postmenopausal women who received service at an osteoporosis diagnosis center in Brazil. Of the 356 women who were diagnosed with osteoporosis, 113 chose to receive estrogen therapy. The findings appear in the journal Menopause.

Each participant was over the age of 50 and postmenopausal for at least one year. The women were divided into two categories: women who received estrogen therapy for at least six months and those who never received treatment. Other factors such as race, income, and level of education were also recorded.

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Women receiving osteoporosis treatment had less periodontal probing depth and clinical attachment loss—the amount of space between teeth and surrounding tissue due to bone loss—and less gum bleeding than those who didn’t receive therapy.

Further, higher family income and more frequent consultations with a dentist were also associated with a lower prevalence of periodontitis.

Despite the evidence of estrogen playing a significant role in maintaining healthy bones, hormone therapy also has been shown to cause adverse effects, such as increasing the risk of heart disease and breast cancer, Scannapieco says.

Source: University at Buffalo