Dead Jaw Bone: Bisphosphonate Patients Largely Unaware of Risks

Article

More than 80 percent of patients seeking routine care at a dental clinic were unaware of the duration of their bisphosphonate therapy or the risk of adverse events, including oral osteonecrosis.

People undergoing bisphosphonate therapy to prevent or treat osteoporosis (a thinning of the bones) may be unfamiliar with the drug and possible adverse side effects on oral health, according to a study in the The Journal of the American Dental Association.

Use of bisphosphonates has been associated with a small risk of developing bisphosphonate-associated osteonecrosis of the jaw (BON) that occurs spontaneously or after the patient has undergone dental surgery. BON is a rare but serious condition that can cause severe damage to the jaw bone. The prevalence of BON is between three and 12 percent for patients who receive bisphosphonates intravenously for cancer therapy and less than one percent for patients who receive bisphosphonates orally for osteoporosis or osteopenia.

In the study, the authors sought to determine whether patients taking bisphosphonates had knowledge about the medical indication for the therapy and how long the treatment would last. They also wanted to know whether participants’ physicians told them about possible adverse reactions.

The researchers interviewed 73 participants (71 women, two men) seeking routine care in a dental clinic. These participants, with an average age of 66 years that ranged from 44 to 88 years, also were undergoing bisphosphonate treatment. Eighty-four percent of the participants stated they knew why they were receiving bisphosphonate therapy. However, 80 percent said they were unsure about the duration of the therapy and 82 percent could not recall receiving information about the risk of experiencing adverse reactions, including oral osteonecrosis, by their physicians.

“The results of our small study show that patients who take bisphosphonates may not be aware that BON can develop after they undergo invasive dental care,” the authors wrote. “We believe that a more effective communication process between prescribing physicians, dentists and patients using bisphosphonates is needed.”

Source: American Dental Association

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