New jawbone disease could affect millions of seniors

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"Bone death," a recently discovered jawbone disease that could potentially affect millions of seniors, will be one topic of conversation at the 2008 American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Foundation meeting.

Also known as bisphosphonate osteonecrosis, the ailment could be the next big epidemic to hit the senior population, experts in the fields of dentistry and ear and throat medicine say. More than 44 million seniors nationwide are being treated for osteoporosis, according to experts, and it is these treatments that leave the elderly susceptible to the disease. Here's why: Bisphonphonates used in the treatment have been linked to bone death, especially in seniors who have had dental procedures.

Often, symptoms include pain, swelling, infection of the gums or jaw, gums that will not heal, a feeling of heaviness in the jaw, or drainage. But a key indicator is exposed bone in the jaw. Researchers and experts at the AAO-HNSF meeting, being held this weekend in Chicago, will discuss diagnostic and treatment tools, including proper dental care.