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Bisphosphonates and your oral health

What are Bisphosphonates?

Bisphosphonates are a class of medication used to treat such conditions as osteoporosis, osteopenia, and cancers that may spread to bone such as breast and prostate cancer. Common bisphosphonates medications include: Aredia, Zometa, Fosmax, Actonel and Boniva.

Bisphosphonates work by inhibiting the cells that eat away bone, called osteoclasts. Osteoclasts are normal cells within the body that help bone reshape itself during the process of growth or if injured. By inhibiting these cells, Bisphosphonates prevent bone loss in conditions like osteoporosis and osteopenia, and prevent cancer from spreading through bone.

Why are dentists concerned about Bisphosphonates?

The jaws are unique bones within the body. They continually reshape themselves. This process is called bone remodeling and the jaws rely on this process more than any other bone in the body. This process requires healthy osteoclasts. Since Bisphosphonates inhibit osteoclasts, this process is shut down. When the jawbones no longer have the ability to remodel, they die (become necrotic). When the bone dies, the tissues overlying them (gums or mucosa) slough off. This leads to exposed bone, which can often become infected and painful.

It is recommend that you notify your dentist if you are planning on or currently taking Bisphosphonates. If you are currently taking a Bisphosphonate and have noticed these changes occurring in your mouth contact your dentist right away for further evaluation and treatment.*

*Information from:

To learn more about Bisphosphonates

Visit the ADA website:

Read the following article: Bisphosphonates.pdf


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