According to a new study, it may now be possible to predict who is at risk for fracturing a bone elsewhere in the body by looking at the person’s dental x-rays. The researchers at the University of Gothenburg’s Sahlgrenska Academy and Region Västra Götaland reported these new findings to the journal Nature Reviews Endocrinology. The ability to predict bone fractures comes to us because of previous work done by the researchers, which they then used to come to these new conclusions.

According to another older study done by this same team, researchers discovered a correlation between what they called sparse bone structure of the trabecular bone, a bone in the lower jaw, and fractures in other parts of the body. According to the research, patients who had previously had fractures elsewhere more often than not also had this sparse bone structure.

The researchers at this University now want to take those findings a ste further and conduct even more research on the matter to determine the reason for this correlation. In the newer study the researchers looked at the bone structure in the lower jaw and were able to see that those who had the sparse bone structure were more likely to be affected by future fractures.

“We’ve seen that sparse bone structure in the lower jaw in mid-life is directly linked to the risk of fractures in other parts of the body, later in life,”says Lauren Lissner, a researcher at the Institute of Medicine at the Sahlgrenska Academy.

The researchers conducted their study by analyzing the jaw structures of over seven hundred patients starting in 1968. the researchers noted which patients had the weaker bone structure in the jaw and then gave checkups to the patients in intervals over the next forty years. At first in the study the patients self-reported any fractures elsewhere in the body, but in the 1980s medical technology advanced and made fracture identifying medical equipment a possibility.

The study presents several noteworthy facts. First they found that twenty percent of the patients had sparse bone structure at the beginning of the study and subsequently were more at risk for fractures elsewhere. Second they also found a link between the age of the patients and their likelihood of getting fractures. The study specifies that the link is not between age and the ability for bones to fracture, but instead is between age and the likelihood that a sparse jaw bone will cause other bones to fracture.

“Dental X-rays contain lots of information on bone structure,” says Grethe Jonasson, the researcher at the Research Centre of the Public Dental Service in Västra Götaland who initiated the fractures study. “By analysing these images, dentists can identify people who are at greater risk of fractures long before the first fracture occurs.”

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