Learning the Hard Way About Osteoporosis
About a year ago, I learned that I have severe osteoporosis. I was literally, blown away by this news because I was a lover of all this dairy. But this was caused largely due to medications that were stealing calcium from my bones or not allowing it to absorb into my bones. On top of this because of my debilitating diseases, I was not getting any exercise. And if you aren’t doing weight-bearing exercise, your body is not being instructed to build bone.
Now, at my diagnosis, I’m sure that my doctors said to try to exercise some. But they never gave a “why” to exercise even though it hurts. No one said, “Look, if you are moving then down the road you will have osteoporosis.” And though it was the drugs they prescribed, they didn’t instruct me to get a DEXXA scan earlier than the typical age of 65.
Seriously, friends, when it comes to your health, you best be checking those medications and seeing what you are up for. You better take the things your doctors do say seriously. Do your research and ask questions. Don’t assume that your doctor is doing everything he can for you.
Learning the Hard Way About Your Teeth
If that wasn’t surprising enough, one of the first things my doctor did was send me to the dentist. Dentistry was one of the things I had let slide when doctor bills started coming in by the truckload. Insurance didn’t cover it and I didn’t have money for even a yearly cleaning.
Over time, I had broken several teeth and just let them be. They quit hurting after a bit and I moved on. But, here we are 10-plus years down the road with osteoporosis. (OP from here out)
What Does Osteoporosis Have to do with Your Teeth?
Many of the medications used for OP can help you strengthen your bones and avoid fractures, but there is a side effect. If you take a bisphosphonate and then need dental surgery or a tooth removed there is a chance of getting osteonecrosis of the jaw. Basically, your jaw will not heal and the next thing you know you have no jaw left. Read more about that here Osteonecrosis of the Jaw – The Rheumatologist (the-rheumatologist.org)
My Story of OP and my Teeth
So, I’ve already shared that I had neglected my teeth. When I got to the dentist and they did the x-rays, They said several teeth need repairing, but #15 must be removed. The first dentist decided to send me to an oral surgeon.
The oral surgeon found that I have a dormant tooth laying in my jaw beneath the surface. I had kept the baby tooth well into my adulthood. But it was gone now. After another look, he decided the tooth next to it would have to go too. This meant three extractions, a bone graft, and a long healing time do to my auto-immune disease. After this heals, I would need implants (not covered by insurance) or a bridge. We’re talking 6 months at least for recovery.
I was quite nervous about the whole ordeal. And said I need to have anesthesia to deal with this. That’s fine, we can do that… to the tune of $11,000. Insurance only pays for the actual extraction. NOT for anesthesia. And I would still need to go get the bridge after that.
In the meantime, I am still waiting to start OP treatment. (It’s been a year at this point.)
I also had a new dentist by now as well. He said he could easily remove the #15 tooth. But I still had to pay for nitrous oxide (laughing gas). The tooth came out easily but I am still in recovery mode one month later. I already had TMJ issues. Now though the gum is mostly healed, I have a difficult time chewing anything like meat or biting into a sandwich.
Well, recall that I still have two more teeth that should be removed. Though these teeth have never bothered me there is always a chance that they could. The kicker is, that bisphosphonates have a half-life of 11 YEARS. This means if you have a tooth problem, you must stop taking the medicine and wait 11 years before working on your teeth. Interesting, eh?
Which Risk to Take
There are other options of medications but not the best choices when you have severe OP. At my last visit with my endocrinologist and my rheumatologist, we were all in agreement that the risk of this tooth ever giving me trouble is minimal. But my risk of a fracture is very great. So we have decided to leave the teeth alone and proceed vicariously into my treatment plan. She did decide that we would not use bisphosphonate drugs; so that, I would only have to wait 5 months to treat a tooth and jaw problem.
I share all this with you as a warning.
TAKE CARE OF YOUR TEETH!
The Center for Disease Control offers these suggestions for your oral health as an adult.
- Practice good oral hygiene. Brush teeth thoroughly twice a day and floss daily between the teeth to remove dental plaque.
- Visit your dentist at least once a year, even if you have no natural teeth or have dentures.
- Do not use any tobacco products. If you smoke, quit.
- Limit alcoholic drinks.
- If you have diabetes, work to maintain control of the disease. This will decrease the risk for other complications, including gum disease. Treating gum disease may help lower your blood sugar level.
- If your medication causes dry mouth, ask your doctor for a different medication that may not cause this condition. If dry mouth cannot be avoided, drink plenty of water, chew sugarless gum, and avoid tobacco products and alcohol.
- See your doctor or a dentist if you have sudden changes in taste and smell.
- When acting as a caregiver, help older individuals brush and floss their teeth if they are not able to perform these activities independently.
I hope that I can stop learning the hard way from here out. I’ll be seeing my dentist as long as insurance will pay the bill. 🙂
Praying You Aren’t Learning the Hard Way,
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Pastor’s Wife (retired) & Chronic Pain Warrior blogs about how to make it through anything by relating her own life experiences to her writing. She is passionate about her love for the Lord and desires to spread that passion to others. She has a great desire to encourage women who are following behind her.