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Osteonecrosis (pronounced OSS-tee-oh-ne-KRO-sis) of the jaw is an uncommon condition that involves the loss, or breakdown, of the jaw bone. It can be a serious condition. Symptoms include, but are not limited to:
• Pain, swelling, or infection of the gums
• Loosening of teeth
• Poor healing of the gums
• Numbness or the feeling of heaviness in the jaw
To diagnose osteonecrosis of the jaw, doctors may use X rays or tests for infection (microbial cultures). Treatments for osteonecrosis of the jaw may include antibiotics, oral rinses, and removable mouth appliances. Minor dental work may be necessary to remove injured tissue and reduce sharp edges of the bone. Surgery is typically avoided because it may make the condition worse.

Scientists do not know exactly what causes osteonecrosis of the jaw or how often it occurs. This disease has occurred in some cancer patients receiving bisphosphonates. However, a causal relationship between bisphosphonates and osteonecrosis of the jaw has not been established. Some possible factors that may increase the risk of osteonecrosis include:
• Radiation therapy to the head or neck
• Chemotherapy
• Steroid therapy (for example, cortisone)
• Underlying cancer
• Anemia (low blood count) and other bloodrelated disorders
• Infection
• A history of poor dental health
• Gum disease or dental surgery (such as pulled teeth)
• Alcohol abuse or cigarette smoking
• Poor nutrition
• Poor blood circulation or clotting problems
Recently, FOSAMAX has been linked to this serious condition.

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