When bone within the jaw becomes exposed, the lack of blood flow causes it to deteriorate, thus leading to Osteonecrosis (ONJ) of the jaw. To date, scientists do not know all of the causes of ONJ or how often it occurs, as reported by Medscape. Yet, there are important associations to consider such as radiation to the head or neck area, chronic steroid usage, uncontrolled infections and major trauma. Instances of ONJ are also linked to individuals taking medications for the treatment of osteoporosis, as well as those taking anti-resorptive medications during cancer treatments. While sophisticated diagnostic testing has yet to be developed to determine one’s risk for developing ONJ, it’s important to gain an awareness of potential symptoms relating to ONJ, and how to combat its progression.
For the most part, Osteonecrosis is not identified until patients begin to experience its symptoms. These include pain, loose teeth, and numbness of the jaw, lips and chin. Additional symptoms include pus or fluid drainage and bones and gums that do not heal, as is often the case with severe gum recession or following a tooth extraction. In regards to these symptoms, however, patients should know that early signs of ONJ usually include a dull ache or gum irritation with some recession.
When discovered at its earliest stage, ONJ can be conservatively treated with antibiotics or medicated rinses, as prescribed by a dentist. Yet, a patient’s treatment hinges upon their oral health, as well as medications that they take. For example, if a patient is taking an anti-resorptive medication, dentists may opt for alternative treatments such as root canal therapy over a tooth extraction. This is because anti-resorptive medications slow the process of bone remodeling, and may affect healing following a surgical procedure.
How You, The Patient, Can Help Yourself
When it comes to Osteonecrosis of the jaw (ONJ), patients can help themselves by committing to regular dental visits and maintaining open communication with their dentist.
Featuring the latest advancements in diagnostic and digital dentistry, Dr. Joyce Guojun Ma, DDS, PhD of Precision Digital Dentistry welcomes you to her practice, where you’ll find a full spectrum of dental care that is patient-centered and informative. To schedule your appointment, call Precision Digital Dentistry in Bridgewater today.