Dental records can identify osteoporosis risk years before condition develops



21:52 GMT, 22 September 2012

Dentists at Manchester University are pioneering a technology called Osteodent that can detect those at risk of osteoporosis by looking at dental scans years before the condition develops.

Osteoporosis, which affects more than three million Britons, is a disease in which the density of bones is reduced, making them weak and more prone to breaking.

Until now, there has been no way of predicting whether a person is at risk of the bone-thinning disease, with diagnoses only being made after a bone fracture.

Open wide: Teeth x-rays can hold vital clues in identifying osteoporosis risks

Open wide: Teeth x-rays can hold vital clues in identifying osteoporosis risks

However, a British study has shown that bone deterioration in the jaw – which is routinely X-rayed prior to dental treatment – can reveal if bone deterioration is occurring in other parts of the body too.

The research analysed 5,000 dental X-rays of patients aged between 15 and 94. No change in bone density was observed in women until the age of 42, after which density loss accelerated.

Comparing X-rays of other body parts revealed the same loss of bone density was occurring in the jaws as elsewhere.

Using the results of the study, dentists have developed software that can immediately assess an individual’s risk of osteoporosis, which in turn alerts the patient to whether they need to be referred to a specialist for further investigation.

‘Dentists are uniquely positioned to provide such a service as they see patients regularly and routinely perform X-ray examinations,’ says Hugh Devlin, professor of restorative dentistry at Manchester University and co-developer of the new technique.

‘Software such as Osteodent could save lives and, with early diagnosis and treatment, including preventive therapy, this could save the NHS many millions of pounds too.’