Bone treatments leading to growing dental problems

Kansas City StarFebruary 3, 2009 

After Geneva Grimpo fell and broke her hand and arm, doctors put the tiny, fragile-looking woman on drugs to strengthen her bones.

Three years into her drug therapy, trouble began.

Her lower jawbone poked out through sores on the left side of her mouth where her gums had decayed. The visible bone was dead, and she used her fingers to fish out tiny bits as they broke off.

"Now my right jaw hurts," said Grimpo, 85. X-rays show that bone is dying, too.

Her problem is a growing concern for dentists nationwide. It is called osteonecrosis of the jaw, or ONJ, a condition in which the gums become painful and infected, exposing underlying areas of dead bone in the jaw.

Dentists see ONJ in patients who take certain bone-strengthening drugs used to fight cancer or osteoporosis — drugs that include Fosamax, Boniva and Actonel, some of the most-prescribed medications on the market.

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