By the way, doctor: Does Fosamax damage the jawbone?

Q. I've heard that taking Fosamax for a long time causes the jawbone to deteriorate. Do you know anything about this?

A. Alendronate (brand name Fosamax) is one of a class of drugs called bisphosphonates, which are widely used to prevent and treat osteoporosis. Other oral medications in this class are risedronate (Actonel) and ibandronate (Boniva).

Bone continually goes through a process of breakdown (resorption) and formation. Cells called osteoclasts attach to the bone surface and break it down, leaving cavities that are then filled with new bone by cells called osteoblasts. Osteoporosis occurs when bone formation does not keep up with resorption. Bisphosphonates work by blocking the activity of osteoclasts. This helps increase bone density and reduce fracture risk in women with osteoporosis.

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