Postmenopausal women need more dental checkups

March 24, 2011

Two dental checkups a year aren?t enough to control plaque in postmenopausal women, a new study indicates. The finding emerged unexpectedly from a study, published in Menopause (2011;18[2]:164-170), which examined the long-term effects of bisphosphonate therapy on the jawbone.

Two dental checkups a year aren’t enough to control plaque in postmenopausal women, a new study indicates. The finding emerged unexpectedly from a study, published in Menopause (2011;18[2]:164-170), which examined the long-term effects of bisphosphonate therapy on the jawbone.

Researchers from Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine and the Cleveland Clinic compared 28 postmenopausal white women, 51 to 80 years of age, with low bone density who had taken bisphosphonates for 2 years or more with a matching group of 28 women who had not taken bisphosphonates. The women underwent conebeam computed tomography scans of the jaw and received a complete periodontal examination for dental plaque, bleeding, loss of bone attachment, and condition of the alveolar bone socket. Both groups had followed American Dental Association recommendations to brush twice daily, floss, and have at least 2 dental checkups per year.

Bone strength and other markers for osteoporosis were similar in the 2 groups. However, both groups had increased dental plaque levels, which could endanger bone that anchors the teeth, says lead author Leena Palomo, DDS, MSD.

Menopausal women who are at risk for osteoporosis are also at risk for periodontal disease, she notes. Hard plaque triggers an inflammatory reaction that produces cytokines. These proteins erode the tooth socket, which can lead to tooth loss and can also initiate the process that weakens bones in osteoporosis.

Palomo warns that postmenopausal women may have to see the dentist as many as 4 times per year for cleaning to control plaque. “Women also have to realize that bone disease and gum disease are 2 separate diseases,” she adds. Bisphosphonate therapy alone won’t keep the jawbone healthy; women need to eliminate dental plaque as well.