Osteonecrosis of the Jaw (ONJ)

Dear Patients,

As the temperatures turn south and the whitish form of precipitation begins to fall, the mind fills with thoughts of the holidays and family get-togethers.

Sometimes, when a new prescription drug is introduced to the market it comes with some side effects. Generally, the positive benefits of the drug outweigh the potential negatives. Sometimes these rare side effects can be life threatening or even fatal. This is the case with bisphosphonates. These drugs were introduced in the mid 1990’s to help treat osteoporosis. The most common side effects included esophageal irritation, stomach upset, and muscle or bone discomfort. Recently it has been revealed that these drugs can also produce a rare but serious and often untreatable side effect, osteonecrosis of the jaw (ONJ).

ONJ reduces the entire jaw to abscess and it gradually rots away. Surgical removal of the affected jaw is sometimes necessary to save the patients life, otherwise death from organ failure results. The most popular drug names are Fosamax and Actonel. The literature cites that any procedure that exposes the bone in the oral cavity places the patient at high risk for ONJ. Traumatic dental procedures like extractions, periodontal surgery, endodontic surgery, and implant placement may precipitate the onset of ONJ. There are even documented cases of ill-fitting dentures/partials causing ulcerations which have lead to ONJ. The predominate opinion by the experts recommends that any patient considering biphosphonate therapy should be examined by a dentist and have any invasive dental procedures performed prior to the initiation of the therapy.

If you or someone you love is presently taking a biphosphonate or considering biphosphonate therapy, please contact our office for a no-charge consultation.


Michael W. Dagostino, DDS

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