Osteonecrosis 2018-02-21T20:03:17-06:00


Osteonecrosis has similarities to arthritis but instead of the joints, the bones suffer from a lack of blood supply. The tissue in the bones dies slowly. As this happens, you experience pain and discomfort. There are bones all over the body. It provides us with structure and stability. When the bones become weak, we lose some function and the ability to move. The jaw is one area that is common for osteonecrosis. Different things cause the dise ase, but it can be easily treated. Understanding the symptoms of the disease will allow you to get the treatment you need before it is too late and the bones are destroyed.


Bones are strong and hard. There are about 206 bones in the body. Each bone is hollow inside and has marrow. The marrow of the bone lies in that cavity. The marrow is important because blood cells are reproduced in the marrow. The cells are immature and can become almost any cell that you need. Every day, cells are dying and being remade. Once the cells get old, they are killed, and new cells form. Blood is very important for the function of the whole body. Blood does not strictly support muscles and organs, but it is needed for the bones too. When the bones lose blood, they too lose oxygen and the nutrients it needs to thrive. The bones eventually start to break down, and you suffer.

Osteonecrosis of the Jaw

Osteonecrosis is a lack of blood flow to the bones. Osteonecrosis of the jaw (ONJ) is extremely common. There is a lack of blood supply to the jaw. If the tissue loses blood, the tissue will die. There are several reasons and causes of osteonecrosis of the jaw. It is easier to target a lack of blood flow in smaller bones. The jaw is a common problem primarily because of its attachment to the teeth. Problems with the teeth can have a major impact on the jaw.

Causes of Osteonecrosis

Sometimes damage to the blood vessels or bones limits blood flow. As it pertains to the jaw, tooth extraction is the most common cause of osteonecrosis. Sometimes partials and things are added. The healing process may take a while, but when blood supply is affected, the surgery may not heal at all. Sometimes the pulling of the teeth affects how blood flows to the jaw. It can cause damage to the nerves as well. Those with cancer are also at risk for ONJ. The cancer treatment can damage the blood supply to the jaw. There are several other medications related to osteonecrosis of the jaw. Steroids and antiresorptive medication are two that are associated with ONJ. Osteoporosis is another problem. Osteonecrosis affects nearly 20, 000 people yearly. It is not an extremely common issue, but it is painful. It most often affects those between the age of 20 and 50. Alcohol use may also put you at a high risk for osteonecrosis.


There are no symptoms at first. Eventually, you start to feel pain in the tooth and the jaw. Swelling also occurs. In the most severe cases, you will have an infection in the jawbone. When the jaw becomes infected, it is serious because it can spread to the brain and other areas of the body. Treatment for ONJ is dependent upon the symptoms.

Diagnosis and Treatment

When diagnosing ONJ, you will first talk with your physician about your symptoms. It is good to talk about whether or not you have had recent mouth surgery. Other health conditions are discussed. If you have osteoporosis, that will give the doctor a better idea of why you are having jaw pain. X-rays will also be done. Bone density tests are good too. The doctor can assess how much of the bone is decayed. Treatment may start with just using mouthwash to help with any infection. Antibiotics are good to use as well in conjunction with mouthwash. The doctor can also give you topical gel. The most severe forms of ONJ may require a dental procedure.


The things that cause ONJ can be avoided. Protecting your mouth and gums is important. Make sure you have your yearly dentist appointments. You should also make sure you are brushing daily and flossing. If you are on strong steroids or undergoing cancer treatment, be aware of the risks.  Make sure to talk with your doctor about that. If you need oral surgery, make sure to get it done before starting treatment that requires the use of these medications. Having more dental appointments is best.

Osteonecrosis of the jaw is not the most common condition, but it is something to be aware of. If you are currently on certain medications, you may see that you are at risk of ONJ. ONJ may be restricted to the jaw, but osteonecrosis can hapen in any bone. If you notice symptoms of ONJ or just osteonecrosis anywhere, seek medical attention quickly and get treatment right away.


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