BACKGROUND: The oral health status of patients on bisphosphonates is the key to the patient's ongoing health and well-being. If they are orally healthy, invasive bone procedures, particularly extractions can be avoided, then the risk of osteonecrosis of the jaws (ONJ) is low. METHODS: The records of 49 consecutive patients on oral bisphosphonates, referred to the Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Unit (OMSU) for an oral health check and probable extractions, were retrospectively reviewed. The DMFT, periodontal and pathologic state were calculated from the OPG radiographs. An age and gender matched control group, from patients referred to the OMSU but who were not on oral bisphosphonates, were similarly assessed. Community data were also obtained. RESULTS: The DMFT score for the oral bisphosphonate group was 29: Decayed 3, Missing 10, Filled 16. The control group DMFT score was 24: Decayed 5, Missing 11, Filled 8. Both groups had advanced periodontal disease (over 95 per cent) and were medically compromised (over 90 per cent). The DMFT for general community data for age matched government pensioners was 19.1: Decayed 0.8, Missing 10.4, Filled 7.9. With severe periodontal disease 23 per cent. Thus, the oral health of the oral bisphosphonate group was similar to the control group and both had more decayed teeth and periodontal disease than community values. CONCLUSIONS: This study confirms that one cannot assume that a patient on an oral bisphosphonate for osteoporosis has a healthy mouth. It supports the view that all patients on bisphosphonates need to be seen by a dentist either before or soon after commencement of bisphosphonate therapy.
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