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What are the causes of osteonecrosis of the jaw?

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Possible causes of osteonecrosis of the jaw include complications from shingles, radiation therapy, chronic steroid therapy, bone infection and antiresorptive therapy, according to the American College of Rheumatology. The reason antiresorptive therapy can cause this condition is not fully known, but it may generally occur after invasive dental surgery.

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Osteonecrosis of the jaw is a condition in which the bone of the jaw is exposed for at least eight weeks, explains the ACR. The best measure for preventing this condition is proper dental hygiene and regular dental care, particularly for those with osteoporosis or cancer, as treatments for both these conditions may increase risk. Dental surgery should be avoided in high-risk groups if possible, and treatments that preserve teeth, such as root canals, should be favored over dental extractions. The amounts of medications given for cancer are generally much higher than those for osteoporosis, so the risk in this case is also greater and increases with time.

Avoiding medications for osteoporosis is not a good strategy for preventing osteonecrosis, according to the ACR. The risk of fractures due to untreated osteoporosis is much higher than the risks associated with osteonecrosis. If osteonecrosis does occur, the patient commonly follows a conservative treatment route that may include oral analgesics, rinses and antibiotics.

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