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Dental X-Rays Reveal Accurate Picture of Osteoporosis Risk

Dentists may soon have the tools to screen their patients for bone loss. A new European study presented at the International Association for Dental Research meeting this week outlines how routine dental x-rays can identify patients at risk of osteoporosis.

Lead author Paul van der Stelt with Amsterdam's Academic Centre for Dentistry analyzed dental x-rays of 550 women whose average age was 55 for signs of osteoporosis.

"Things like the average thickness and the average bone amount," he says. "And it turns out that with those perimeters we can predict osteoporosis as accurate as with the 'golden standard.'"

The so-called 'golden standard' is the bone mineral density test used to predict the thinning of bones. The procedure accesses osteoporosis risk at the hip, wrist and spine, where most complications occur.

Van der Stelt says dental x-rays use less radiation than the golden standard, and notes there are other benefits to relying on the dentist to measure for bone density.

"Many people see their dentists on a regular basis, which means the dentists can do longitudinal measurements during office visits instead of a single one-time snapshot."

Van der Stelt is now working on dentist-friendly software that can calculate risk instantly during an office visit. "We have proven that it works."

He expects the tool to be available within a few years. The study will be published in the June issue of the journal Bone .