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British Dental Journal 211, 586 (2011)
Published online: 23 December 2011 | doi:10.1038/sj.bdj.2011.1070

Dental X-rays can predict fracture risk

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A study reported in Nature Reviews Endocrinology states that it is now possible to use dental X-rays to predict who is at risk of fractures.

In a previous study, researchers from the University of Gothenburg's Sahlgrenska Academy and Region Västra Götaland demonstrated that a sparse bone structure in the trabecular bone in the lower jaw is linked to a greater chance of having previously had fractures in other parts of the body. The researchers have now taken this a step further with a new study, published in Bone,1 that shows that it is possible to use dental X-rays to investigate the bone structure in the lower jaw, and so predict who is at greater risk of fractures in the future.

The study draws on data from the Prospective Population Study of Women in Gothenburg started in 1968. The study included 731 women who have been examined on several occasions since 1968, when they were 38-60-years-old. X-ray images of their jaw bone were analysed in 1968 and 1980 and the results related to the incidence of subsequent fractures.

For the first 12 years fractures were self-reported during follow-up examinations. It is only since the 1980s that it has been possible to use medical registers to identify fractures. A total of 222 fractures were identified during the whole observation period.

The study shows that the bone structure of the jaw was sparse in around 20% of the women aged 38-54 when the first examination was carried out, and that these women were at significantly greater risk of fractures.

The study also shows that the older the person, the stronger the link between sparse bone structure in the jaw and fractures in other parts of the body.

Although the study was carried out on women, the researchers believe that the link also applies for men.

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Reference

  1. Jonasson G, Sundh V, Ahlqwist M, Hakeberg M, Björkelund C, Lissner L. A prospective study of mandibular trabecular bone to predict fracture incidence in women: a low-cost screening tool in the dental clinic. Bone 2011; 49: 873–879. | Article | PubMed | ISI |

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