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Osteonecrosis of the jaw (ONJ) is a rare but serious condition that can cause deterioration to the jaw bone. Learn more about this disease and if you are at risk for it.

Causes

ONJ is also called antiresorptive agent-induced osteonecrosis of the jaw (ARONJ) because antiresorptive agents like bisphosphonates and denosumab can cause this condition. Antiresorptive agents are used by individuals who have osteoporosis or Paget’s disease. These agents are also used in higher dosage for cancer patients to prevent pain and problems from developing in their bones.

Risk Factors

It has been found that over 90% of those diagnosed with osteonecrosis of the jaw have cancer. However, there are some other risk factors related to this condition.

  • Age (those older than 65 years)
  • Gum disease
  • Prolonged use of antiresorptive agents (more than 2 years)
  • Smoking
  • Dentures
  • Diabetes

Symptoms

Sometimes it is difficult to tell if you’ve developed ONJ, which is why it is important to regularly visit your dentist. However, there are some symptoms you can keep an eye out for.

  • Pain, swelling, or infection in the gums or jaw
  • Loose teeth
  • Exposed bone
  • Gums don’t heal after injury
  • Numb or heavy feeling in the jaw
  • Drainage

Solutions

It has been found that osteonecrosis of the jaw often develops after dental procedures which affect bone tissue (like a tooth extraction). So if you take antiresorptive medication, inform your dentist before undergoing a procedure so they can take this in mind when developing your treatment plan. If you do develop ONJ, you may need to take medications for pain, infection, or need to see a physician about further treatment for this condition. The best solution is prevention, so avoid the risk factors that you can and see your dentist for regular check-ups.