April 22, 2019
by Harvard Women's Health Watch
A dentist refers a woman to an oral surgeon because she needs a tooth pulled. But upon reviewing her chart, the oral surgeon turns her away.
The reason? She’s taking a common medication to treat her osteoporosis, a condition that causes bones to become thin, brittle, and prone to fracture.
Many women taking these drugs — including bisphosphonates such as alendronate (Fosamax), risedronate (Actonel), and ibandronate (Boniva), as well as denosumab (Prolia), a RANK ligand inhibitor — report similar experiences, even if they are no longer taking these drugs but did so in the past. Oral surgeons sometimes hesitate to work on women taking osteoporosis drugs because of misinformation about the risks they pose for a rare bone condition called osteonecrosis of the jaw. Osteonecrosis (bone death) can prevent the surgical area from healing, leaving the bone exposed, and may lead to other complications.
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