Purpose: This article discusses osteonecrosis of the jaw (ONJ) and offers health care professionals practical guidelines and recommendations for the prevention, diagnosis, and management of ONJ in cancer patients receiving bisphosphonate treatment.
Methods: A panel of experts representing oral and maxillofacial surgery, oral medicine, endocrinology, and medical oncology was convened to review the literature and clinical evidence, identify risk factors for ONJ, and develop clinical guidelines for the prevention, early diagnosis, and multidisciplinary treatment of ONJ in patients with cancer. The guidelines are based on experience and have not been evaluated within the context of controlled clinical trials.
Results: ONJ is a clinical entity with many possible etiologies; historically identified risk factors include corticosteroids, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, trauma, infection, and cancer. With emerging concern for potential development of ONJ in patients receiving bisphosphonates, the panel recommends a dental examination before patients begin therapy with intravenous bisphosphonates. Dental treatments and procedures that require bone healing should be completed before initiating intravenous bisphosphonate therapy. Patients should be instructed on the importance of maintaining good oral hygiene and having regular dental assessments. For patients currently receiving bisphosphonates who require dental procedures, there is no evidence to suggest that interrupting bisphosphonate therapy will prevent or lower the risk of ONJ. Frequent clinical assessments and conservative dental management are suggested for these patients. For treatment of patients who develop ONJ, a conservative, nonsurgical approach is strongly recommended.
Conclusion: An increased awareness of the potential risk of ONJ in patients receiving bisphosphonate therapy is needed. Close coordination between the treating physician and oral surgeon and/or a dental specialist is strongly recommended in making treatment decisions.