Osteonecrosis of the jaw (ONJ) is a bone disease which affects the maxilla and the mandible.  It is also referred to as ‘dead jaw syndrome’. This disease disrupts the supply of blood to the jaw bone. This leads to tiny breaks that can lead to total bone collapse and significant damage such as tooth loss.

There is still a poor understanding of the causes of this disease. Sometimes, Jaw osteonecrosis occurs when bio-films that are laden with bacteria infect the jaw after the bone is exposed due to tooth extraction or tooth injuries. There are other several factors that might increase the possibility of developing this disease. They are as follows:

  • Radiation therapy in the head or the neck
  • Chemotherapy
  • Treatment with steroids
  • Low blood count and other related blood disorders
  • Infections
  • Poor oral health, nutrition and hygiene
  • Alcohol and habits such as smoking
  • Blood circulation and clotting problems.

Osteonecrosis of the jaw is classified according to its severity, number of lesions and their sizes. The basic signs and symptoms of ONJ is the exposure of the mandibular bone through lesions in the gingival that refuse to heal. Pain is experienced and the surrounding soft tissue. Lesions could develop after invasive dental procedures. Symptoms may not be noticeable for weeks or even months until lesions with exposed bone appear. Research shows that there is a connection between ONJ and the use of bisphosphonates.the research states that bisphosphonates support the buildup of bone in area that are weakened by diseases. Numerous cases of ONJ normally occur with people who receive intravenous bisphosphonates to treat cancer that had spread to the bone. Bisphosphonates can stay in the bone for a long time after the drug is used. Experts say that great effects from oral bisphosphonates might not show up until three years after treatment.

The diagnosis of ONJ involves carrying out an x-ray or a test for infection by taking microbial cultures. Also, there is a new tool used for screening  that helps people taking these drugs determine their risk of developing ONJ.

There is no treatment yet for ONJ but there are ways of controlling the condition. These include; use of antibiotics, chlorhexidine mouth rinses and removable mouth appliances. To lower the risks of developing this disorder, proper oral hygiene must be practiced. It is also advisable to have regular dental visits.

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