What is osteonecrosis of the jaw?
"Osteo" refers to bone. "Necrosis" is the medical term for dead cells. Osteonecrosis Osteonecrosis Osteonecrosis is the death of bone cells. Osteonecrosis happens when something, such as a bone injury, interferes with blood supply to a bone Osteonecrosis most often happens after a bone injury... read more is the death of bone cells. Osteonecrosis of the jaw (ONJ) is the death of some cells in your jawbone. Many people don't think of bone as living, growing tissue but it is.
ONJ can happen on its own or after you have a tooth pulled or have a jaw injury
You may have pain and pus oozing from your mouth
ONJ is treated with antibiotics, mouth rinses, and scraping away the dead bone
What causes ONJ?
Doctors aren't sure why people get osteonecrosis of the jaw. It can happen for no clear reason. But it's more likely after you've had:
A tooth pulled
A jaw injury
Radiation therapy to your head and neck to treat cancer
High IV doses of certain bone medicines called bisphosphonates
Bisphosphonates are most often taken by mouth to treat thinning bones (osteoporosis Osteoporosis Osteoporosis is a condition that weakens your bones. Your bones become thinner and more fragile. This is called a loss of bone density. If you have osteoporosis, your bones break more easily... read more ). Taking them this way doesn't seem to increase risk of ONJ. However, high doses given by vein may increase risk, particularly if you then have oral surgery.
What are the symptoms of ONJ?
Usually you'll have:
Pus in your mouth or jaw area
How can doctors tell if I have ONJ?
Your dentist or oral surgeon can tell whether you have ONJ based on your symptoms and an exam. There aren't any tests to confirm ONJ.
How can I prevent ONJ?
Before beginning IV bisphosphonate therapy, have a dental examination and get any oral surgery you need done first.
How do doctors treat ONJ?
An oral surgeon will treat ONJ with:
Surgery to scrape away the damaged parts of your jaw bone
Doctors don't recommend taking out large areas of damaged bone as it may lead to even worse necrosis.