Postmenopausal women who took a daily dose of estrogen along with calcium, vitamin D and regular dental check-ups improved the condition of their jaw, which could potentially reduce the risk of tooth loss. Women who had regular check-ups but took only calcium and vitamin D also improved jaw mass and density, though to a significantly lesser extent than those who received estrogen.
This is the first prospective, controlled study aimed at determining the effects of estrogen on the jaw. The study was conducted at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and will appear in the June 24 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.
"Tooth loss is fairly prevalent in the aging population, particularly in people over 65, about 40 percent of whom have lost all their teeth," says Roberto Civitelli, M.D., professor of medicine and of cell biology and physiology. "The risk is higher for women aged 65 or older, and continues to increase the longer a women has been postmenopausal. There are so many people with dentures that I think this really requires more attention, particularly as the population ages."
Estrogen already has been shown to help reverse the effects of osteoporosis and to improve bone density in postmenopausal women. Civitelli's team wanted to find out whether these benefits elsewhere in the skeleton also translate to the facial bones, particularly the alveolar bone, which surrounds the teeth. Bone loss in these areas also increases with age and is believed to be a risk factor for tooth loss when combined with periodontal disease.
The team randomly assigned 135 postmenopausal women with no evidence of periodontal disease into one of two groups. One group took an estrogen tablet once a day while the second group took a look-alike sugar pill. All women received daily calcium and vitamin D supplem
Contact: Gila Z. Reckess
Washington University School of Medicine