Osteoporosis, Bisphosphonates And Dental Implants: What You Need To Know

24 February 2016
 Categories: Dentist, Articles


Dental implants are an effective, long-term solution for people who have missing teeth. Nonetheless, the potential success of this type of cosmetic dentistry depends on several factors, including the amount of jaw bone available to anchor the implant. If you have osteoporosis, some treatment methods may influence your decision to undergo dental implants. Find out how bisphosphonates work, and learn more about how these drugs may affect your ability to have dental implants.

How do bisphosphonates treat osteoporosis?

Bisphosphonates are a group of medicines that doctors routinely prescribe for men or women who suffer with osteoporosis. Bisphosphonates are anti-resorptive medicines, and the drugs have properties that can slow down or even stop the bone loss that osteoporosis can cause. Regular consumption of bisphosphonates can lower the risk of osteoporosis or halt the development of the disease. Over time, the drugs can increase bone density and strength.

How effective are bisphosphonates?

Bisphosphonates are most often prescribed to people with osteoporosis, and the drugs help many people control their symptoms. However, research suggests that long-term use of these drugs may cause unwanted side effects.

Studies suggest that, in rare cases, these medications may actually cause weaker bones. Highlighted examples in research include femur fractures and a condition called osteonecrosis of the jaw (ONJ). Patients with ONJ may experience problems with their jawbone, which becomes exposed and loses its blood supply. Over time, the bone will eventually weaken and die.

The United States Food And Drug Administration published a review in 2012 that urged caution when prescribing the drugs over the long-term. Nonetheless, experts also agree that the benefits for many people outweigh the minor risk of complications.

Could bisphosphonates interfere with dental implants?

When considering dental implants, some patients with osteoporosis may worry that the risk of ONJ could increase the possibility of implant failure. Research suggests that people with osteoporosis may not need to worry about this problem.

The Journal of Oral Implantology published the results of a study that set out to understand if women undergoing treatment for osteoporosis could still benefit from dental implants. The study focused on a group of 24 women, 12 of whom had used bisphosphonates to treat osteoporosis. All the women in the trial had lost most of their teeth, so dentists extracted all the remaining teeth and replaced them with implants. Researchers then tracked what happened to the women one year later.

None of the women suffered problems with their implants. Bone loss was also similar in both groups of women, suggesting that the bisphosphonates had not adversely impacted the implants. Indeed, all the women in the study still had good contact between the implants and the bone.

How will a dentist decide if you can have implants?

Dental implants are still possible for people with osteoporosis, and your cosmetic dentist will help you understand if you are suitable for this type of treatment, especially if you use bisphosphonates.

Extensive imaging tests can help your dentist understand if the jaw bone is able to support dental implants. These images can show a dentist if the bone is dense enough to cope with the implants. In some cases, the dentist may decide that he or she needs to use a different size or shape implant to cope with your jaw bone. Modern implant technology means that dentists can work with increasingly difficult conditions to get the desired results.

If you've been taking bisphosphonates for more than three years, your dentist may suggest other types of cosmetic treatment, especially if you have also had other types of treatment, such as prednisone. That aside, every patient is different, so a dentist will take a variety of factors into account before recommending a treatment plan for you.

Doctors commonly prescribe bisphosphonates for people with osteoporosis. Bisphosphonates can introduce some extra risks for people who want dental implants, so your dentist can help you understand how these drugs may affect you.