Since the early 1970’s, treatment has been used to halt the breaking down of bone diseases such as osteoporosis and metastatic bone cancer.
Most commonly, the medications are in a category called bisphosphonates. This medication slows down the function of specific cells called osteoclasts.
In a healthy body, osteoclasts digest old bone to extract calcium from bones when the body needs it and help the body grow by removing dying bone. Also, osteoclasts send out chemical messengers to another type of cell called osteoblasts to produce new bone. This remodeling process is precisely tuned and allows bone healing throughout life.
Furthermore, the osteoclasts break down bone faster than osteoblasts rebuild new bone. Bisphosphonate treatment aims to re-establish the balance between the two. They function fairly well and are essential for minimizing the suffering and pain that comes from catastrophic fractures of the wrist, spine, and hip related to osteoporosis. Also, they help to reduce high levels of calcium in the blood that can result in metastatic bone cancer in patients. Although therapeutic dosages of treatments can be prescribed, it is not possible to prescribe bisphosphonate medications to regain the harmony of bone remodeling that exists in a healthy individual.
However, bisphosphonate medications come with a severe but rare side effect called bisphosphonate-related osteonecrosis of the jaw that can happen after dental implant placement and dental extractions. Other contributing factors include periodontal disease, malnutrition, smoking, and alcohol abuse. Osteonecrosis occurs due to the death of bone in a localized region that may or may not become infected. The treatment is unpredictable, and healing of bisphosphonate-related osteonecrosis may be impossible.
The side effect may significantly reduce the quality of life in people suffering from the infection. Dentists are concerned about extracting teeth in patients that use bisphosphonate medication. This has affected the way the dentist prescribe treatment to individuals. For instance, sealing the root stumps at the gum-line and performing root canal therapy on damaged roots is a wise treatment instead of extraction in these patients. Just like other types of treatments, it is good to discuss them with both Dr. Nichols and your physician.