BOSTON, MA — Media reports on a connection between certain
bone-strengthening drugs and the death of bone tissue in the jaw have
raised concerns for many women, notes the September issue of Harvard Women's Health Watch.
Most cases of the bone problem, called osteonecrosis, have occurred
among cancer patients taking potent intravenous forms of these drugs,
but a handful have involved otherwise healthy women taking oral
medications to prevent or treat osteoporosis.
drugs, known as bisphosphonates, include Fosamax, Actonel, Boniva,
Skelid, Didronel, Zometa, Aredia, and Bonefos. They are widely
prescribed for osteoporosis and are also used to treat bone pain and
other complications in cancer patients. Bisphosphonates increase bone
density in the short run, but in the long run they may impair new bone
formation. Scientists think this may reduce the jawbone's capacity to
heal after traumas such as dental extractions or implants.
into the extent of the problem are ongoing. Anyone taking
bisphosphonates should be aware of the symptoms, which include pain,
swelling, and numbness at the site of a tooth extraction or other oral
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