Health Inspired Dentistry Blog

Bone Loss Score May Tip Off Doctors to Gum Disease in Postmenopausal Women Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Postmenopausal women susceptible to bone fractures may also be a higher risk for gum disease, according to researchers at Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine and Case/Cleveland Clinic Postmenopausal Health Collaboration (CCCPOHC).

Researchers found a link between postmenopausal women with high scores of a Fracture Assessment Risk Tool (known as FRAX), and symptoms of severe gum disease, said Leena Palomo, associate professor of periodontics and director of DMD Periodontics program at the School of Dental Medicine.

“More investigations are needed,” she said, “but the FRAX Tool score can potentially be used as a way to find women at risk for gum disease.”

Palomo, Holly L. Thacker of Cleveland Clinic’s Women’s Health Institute, Foluke Alli of Cleveland Clinic and Gazabpreet K. Bandal in the Case Western Reserve periodontics department, reporting their findings in the Menopause article, “Can the FRAX Tool be a Useful Aid for Clinicians to Refer Patients for Periodontal Care?”

Women can suffer a rapid spike in bone loss in the first decade after the onset of menopause as estrogen levels drop.

Lower estrogen levels also impact the mouth and cause inflammatory changes in the body that can lead to gingivitis, a precursor to gum disease, Palomo said. If untreated, the result is tooth loss.

The researchers set out to find a way for doctors to identify women at risk for both gum disease and osteoporosis. They tested the hypothesis that women at-risk for bone fractures might also be at-risk for gum disease.

FRAX scores take into account weight, height, previous fractures, rheumatoid arthritis, smoking habits, diabetes and other factors.

“Many of these factors are also markers for gum disease,” Palomo said.

Researchers found that women with high FRAX scores also showed the strongest signs of gum disease, a result that suggests bone loss could provide a reliable indicator of gum disease.

But there’s a drawback: “Medical insurance does not cover dental procedures,” Palomo said, calling for a change in health insurance policies to cover gum disease because its linked to a women’s overall health.