Back in August I told you about a major problem with the bisphosphonate drugs like Fosamax and Actonel: They can cause some women to permanently lose bone in their jaw!
The makers of these drugs have downplayed the side effects. They've pointed out that the majority of women who lost bone in their jaw were taking the bisphosphates intravenously (for cancer), and not orally for osteoporosis.
Technically, that's true. But the fact is that this problem can strike anyone – at any time. And I'm not the only one worried about it.
A new report from the American Dental Association shows Fosamax and other bisphosphonates are a widespread problem. The ADA report advises dentists throughout the country to have all of their patients who take this drug sign a release before doing any invasive procedures! This includes tooth extractions, root canals, and in some cases, even fillings!
The situation has some dentists so scared, they won't even treat women who take Fosamax. All they're willing to do for these patients is take x-rays, examine their teeth, and suggest regular cleanings. Some I've talked with are advising their patients to have all the dental procedures they need completed before beginning Fosamax.
Clearly, I'm not the only one who thinks this drug can put your health at serious risk. If you have a dental emergency while taking it, you may not find a dentist willing to help.
So why take it at all?
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If you want to take something that will build bone, there are better options. These include magnesium, vitamin D, and strontium. All three are invaluable for building strong bones.
In fact, one recent study found that taking strontium for a little more than six months had a positive effect on bone mineral density for many years afterward. A review of nine years worth of studies on strontium found one to two grams a day was sufficient to reduce fractures in the spine and other sites in osteoporitic women. It also increased bone density in all sites in women with and without osteoporosis. Clearly, there are other solutions to this common problem that are much safer.
For more information on osteonecrosis of the jaw and the role of bisphosphonates, subscribers to my newsletter can read, "How taking Fosamax can lead to a serious and painful jaw disease" (Women's Health Letter, August 2006).
Your voice of reason in Women's Health,
Dr. Janet Zand
Blake, G.M. and I. Fogelman. "Theoretical model for the interpretation of BMD scans in patients stopping strontium ranelate treatment," J Bone Min Res, September 2006.
O'Donnell, S., et al. "Strontium ranelate for preventing and treating postmenopausal osteoporosis," Cochrane Database Syst Rev, July 19, 2006.