Dental health drugs lowers the risk of osteoporosis in women

Research conducted by a group of dental health experts has determined that a drug prescribed for periodontal disease may also prevent osteoporosis in women.

In 1998, the Food and Drug Administration approved the medication, which is called subantimicrobial-dose-doxycycline (SDD), for use among patients with severe gum infections, according to the report published in the Journal of the American Dental Association.

The study was initiated to determine the effect of SDD on inflammation, alveolar bone loss and the extent of periodontitis. All participants were postmenopausal women between the ages of 45 and 70, and all had both periodontal disease and osteopenia, which is low bone density that often precedes the onset of osteoporosis.

Periodontitis is an inflammatory condition caused by bacterial infections of the gums. Essentially, it is a more severe form of gingivitis, affecting the alveolar bone around the roots of teeth. Individuals with periodontal disease can experience swollen gums, as well as loosened and lost teeth.

The new study monitored the inflammation and bone mineral levels of more than 120 women taking SDD over a two-year period. SDD is a part of a class of antibiotic medications called tetracyclines, which previous research has suggested may have applications beyond treatments for infections.

Researchers noted that some studies have shown that a tetracycline called doxycycline may reduce inflammation and have other potential benefits when given in small amounts - hence the name "subantimicrobial-dose-doxycycline."

The team discovered that, after two years of use, postmenopausal women who took SDD had lower blood levels of molecules indicating the advance of osteoporosis. They also had less inflammation and lower levels of enzymes that attack collagen.

Furthermore, their blood levels of so-called good cholesterol had risen, indicating potential cardiovascular benefits of the medication.

The study's authors concluded that SDD may be an effective way to reduce the risk of osteoporosis among postmenopausal women, a group at special risk for the condition.

More than 35 million American women over 50 either have or are at risk for osteoporosis, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation.