Ask Dr. S: Why do I need to tell my dentist if I am on a calcium replacement?

Aging causes our bones to lose density and strength.  Calcium builds and maintains stronger bones and teeth.  It is recommended people between the ages of 18-20 get 1,000 mg/day and 1,200 mg from ages 50-70 to keep bones healthy.  Many people take simple supplements or chocolaty chews, as many times diet alone won’t have enough calcium to fulfill this requirement.

For some postmenopausal women, the addition of calcium supplements to their diet is not enough.  These women have a high risk of developing osteoporosis, a disease that weakens bones and makes them more susceptible to breaking.  Physicians often prescribe a medication containing biophosphates.  Examples of these drugs are Fosamax, Boniva, Actonel, Reclast, Atelvia, Didronel, Aredia and Zometa.  They may be taken orally or intravenously depending upon the drug.  These medications can decrease the chances of breaking bones, which can be difficult to heal for an individual with osteoporosis.

For people who take these medications, a condition called osteonecrosis of the jaw (ONJ) can occur after dental procedures involving bone or associated tissue, such as having a tooth pulled.  ONJ is a very rare condition.  Some symptoms include pain, swelling or infection in the gum or jaws, injured or treated gums that don’t heal, exposed bone or a numbness or feeling a heaviness in the jaw area.

It is critical that you tell your dentist about all medications you are on, including biophosphate drugs, so  they can develop an individualized treatment plan for you.  It is recommended that you see your dentist before beginning biophosphate treatment.  While you don’t need to postpone dental treatment if you are taking a biophosphate, your dentist needs to be aware of possible complications so he/she can help you make informed choices about your treatment.

Always tell your dentist, or any healthcare provider, about all the medications and supplements you are taking.  There may be connections between the medications you are taking and your oral health that you are not aware of.  Biphosphate drugs used for osteoporosis are just one example.  Be sure to discuss your current oral health, and your overall health, with your dentist.  Together you can design a treatment plan that will work for your specific situation.  If you have questions regarding your medications and your oral health, please contact Shamblott Family Dentistry.

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