Treatments have been used to stunt the outbreak of bone diseases like osteoporosis and metastatic bone cancer since the 1970’s.
The medications are also known as bisphosphonates which slow down osteoclasts cells. There are different names for the drugs in this category, and many of them are taken in pill form.
In a healthy body, osteoclasts absorb mature bone to pull calcium out of the bones when the body needs it and help the body grow by eliminating dead bone. Osteoclasts send out chemical messengers to another cell called osteoblasts to produce new bone. In a healthy body, this remodeling process allows growth and healing throughout life.
The osteoclasts break down easier than the osteoblasts in some types of bone disease to rebuild new bone. Bisphosphonate treatment aims to rebuild the balance between the two. They function reasonably well to reduce the pain and suffering that comes from catastrophic fractures of the spine, hip, and wrist related to osteoporosis. Also, they reduce the dangerously high amount of calcium in the blood that can develop in people who have metastatic bone cancer. Therapeutic dosages of treatment can be prescribed, but there is no way to prescribe bisphosphonate therapies to reset the process of bone remodeling that occurs in a healthy individual.
As with all medications, side effects are an expected reality. In regards to bisphosphonate treatments, a rare but severe side effect has been discovered called bisphosphonate-related osteonecrosis of the jaw which occurs after dental extractions or dental implant placement. Smoking, periodontal disease, malnutrition, and alcohol abuse can also be contributing factors. However, osteonecrosis occurs due to the death of bone in a region that may or may not become infected. The medication is not predictable, painful, disfiguring and healing of bisphosphonate-related osteonecrosis is not possible.
Due to this rare side effect, it can significantly reduce the quality of life in people suffering from this infection. Dentists like Dr. Hill are concerned about not extracting teeth in people that use bisphosphonate medication. This has affected the way the dentist treats these individuals. For instance, performing root canal therapy on damaged roots and sealing the root stumps at the gum-line is a good option instead of extraction in these patients.