Medical researchers haven’t investigated to what extent taking bisphosphonates causes osteonecrosis of the jaw, but they agree the link is probably tenuous. In fact, 94 percent of those with osteonecrosis of the jaw also have cancer and are receiving or have received regular high doses of bisphosphonates intravenously. The other 6 percent with osteonecrosis of the jaw took oral bisphosphonates.
“Patients who take bisphosphonates for osteoporosis are encouraged to talk to their dentist so that their dentist can show them good oral hygiene practices as well as monitor their oral health,” says Matthew Messina, an Ohio dentist who is also the American Dental Association’s consumer adviser. “Patients should not stop taking their osteoporosis medications without speaking with their physicians.”
In fact, according to the American Dental Association, osteoporosis medications have many more benefits than the tiny risks associated with developing osteonecrosis of the jaw. The purpose of bisphosphonates is to build bone mass to prevent broken bones in those who suffer from osteoporosis, which causes 2 million fractures a year, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation. It’s estimated that 50 percent of women and 20 percent of men older than 50 will suffer an osteoporosis-caused fracture.
The most common bisphosphonate drugs are alendronate (Fosamax), ibandronate (Boniva), risedonate (Actone) and zoledronic acid (Reclast).