Dental X-Rays May Warn of Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis screening may be helped by dental X-rays, British dental experts report.
WebMD News Archive
Jan. 5, 2007 -- Osteoporosisscreening may be helped by dental
X-rays, British dental experts report.
They've developed computer software that checks routine dental X-rays for
possible warning signs of osteoporosis, in which bones become too thin and are
more likely to fracture.
The software developers include Keith Horner, PhD, MSc. He's a professor of
oral and maxillofacial surgery at England's University of Manchester.
Horner's team tested the software on 652 women aged 45-70 in Belgium,
Greece, Sweden, and the U.K.
The women got bone densityscans of their hip and spine using a
special type of X-ray called dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA).
The women also got routine dental X-rays that were analyzed with the
The DEXA scans showed that 140 women had osteoporosis. The computerized
dental X-ray analysis didn't flag all of those cases.
But the dental X-ray analysis showed that 119 women were candidates for
further bone tests, which later showed that 72 of those women indeed had
Tapping Useful Information
The dental X-ray software "should not been seen as a replacement"
for DEXA, Horner tells WebMD in an email.
Instead, the software may help dentists note patients who might be
candidates for further osteoporosis screening, based on their risk factors and
"The value of our method is that dentists take millions of these X-rays
every year for ordinary dental reasons and they contain useful information that
isn't being used," Horner says.
"People may be apparently healthy and never visit their family doctor,
but often regularly go to their dentist for checkups."
Horner says the analysis could be done without the software, but not as
"The software does it automatically and is free from observer
errors," Horner says.
The software isn't available yet.
"We are currently negotiating with an industrial partner to get the
software out from the laboratory into the dental offices," Horner says.