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Osteoporosis – Know this Silent Disease and its Risks

doctor showing woman bone density results

Unexpected Risks of Osteoporosis

By Jennifer Footit-Tank, quality care coordinator at Network Health
Originally published on 5/18/2021 at 10:00 a.m.

Osteoporosis is often considered a silent disease because you typically do not have symptoms until you experience a broken bone. This bone disease develops when bone strength decreases. When the bone structure weakens, you become more susceptible to fractures.

Is there a connection between menopause and osteoporosis?

Menopause is the decrease or lack of estrogen production. Studies indicate as much as two percent bone loss per year for several years. For people who go through menopause, rapid bone loss can occur quickly and last several years after the mid-life changes. Therefore, people who go through menopause are at greater risk for developing osteoporosis than those who do not.

Developing a preventive plan with your provider when you begin to experience early symptoms of menopause may allow a slower progression of osteoporosis and may help you maintain your current level of bone strength as you age.

Other risks of osteoporosis

If left untreated, osteoporosis can expose you to other risks you don’t often hear about.

The connection between osteoporosis and dental problems

Osteoporosis not only affects the spine and hip bones but also our jawbones. As the bone density in the jaw decreases, the support to keep the teeth in place diminishes as well.

Research from the National Institute of Health (NIH) shows people with osteoporosis are three times more likely to lose teeth than those who do not have the disease.

Some studies suggest that loose teeth provide an opportunity for bacteria to grow causing chronic infection called periodontitis. A consequence of periodontitis is tooth loss, making this a terrible cycle.

How to prevent dental problems from osteoporosis

To ensure your jawbone and teeth remain healthy and strong, see your dentist regularly and have the recommended dental x-rays. Your dentist can see if there are jawbone changes and recognize any symptoms of infection. Early intervention is the best way to persevere and protect your teeth.

Understanding fracture risk with osteoporosis

As your bone strength decreases, your fracture risk increases. Untreated osteoporosis can make your bones so brittle that you can experience a bone fracture by simply coughing, sneezing or bending over to pick something up.

This type of fracture is called a fragility fracture. Fragility fractures can occur in the spine, feet, hip or thigh. They are just as painful as a fracture from a fall.

Treatment requires rest while the bone heals, which will decrease your physical activity. Once healed, you may become overly cautious to prevent a fracture from happening again which can limit the amount of time you spend doing activities you enjoy.

How to prevent osteoporosis

You can help combat bone loss by ensuring your diet has adequate calcium and Vitamin D daily, and by increasing your physical activity. Just make sure to speak with your personal doctor before beginning any physical activity, especially if you feel you may have osteoporosis.

Yearly wellness exams with your personal doctor will allow you to ask your questions about what you can do to slow down any bone loss that occurs with menopause.

Completing a bone mineral density scan, at your doctor’s recommendation, will help determine how strong your bones are and whether intervention is needed.

For more information on how your Wisconsin-based health plan can help you with preventive care and screenings like a bone density test, contact us at Network Health today.

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