What is BRONJ and could medical cannabis be a practical treatment for this condition?

Bisphosphonates are a class of drug used to help slow or prevent osteoporosis, the natural bone thinning that comes with age. They can also be used to treat bone-related cancers, specifically those causing bone damage like multiple myeloma and metastatic bone disease, and are recommended for women entering menopause to help prevent bone loss.

While people have used these treatments for decades, originally discovered in the 1960s, it wasn’t until 2003 that BRONJ was observed and linked directly with the use of bisphosphonates.

What Is BRONJ?

BRONJ, or bisphosphonate-related osteonecrosis of the jaw, has been found to cause osteomyelitis — lesions that form on the jawbone. This condition was first observed in the 19th and 20th centuries, then called phossy jaw or phosphorus necrosis, but it wasn’t until 2003 that it was linked directly to the intravenous use of bisphosphonates. During the early 20th century, it was most often observed in match factory workers who were exposed to yellow phosphorous — the heated fumes were essential in the creation of strike-anywhere matches that became popular during that time.

Today, safety regulations prevent workers from exposure to heated phosphorus fumes, but that hasn’t stopped patients from suffering from BRONJ after treatment with bisphosphonates. The condition causes the bone in the jaw to die off because it is unable to heal. This death of bone tissue continues to remain a problem long after the bisphosphonate treatment ends.

Cannabis and Dental Health

Medical cannabis has been touted as a treatment option for a variety of different conditions, from cancer to glaucoma to anxiety. One thing that it might not be good for is your teeth and dental health. Studies have shown that smoking marijuana for an extended period of time — in this case, a 20-year study period — can cause gum disease and tooth loss.

Gum disease frequently happens in middle age, in spite of good dental hygiene practices, but smoking marijuana has linked to a possible increase of it happening earlier in life.

Smoking marijuana also presents the same problems as cigarette smoke — tooth staining, in particular. Does that mean you should avoid cannabis if you suffer from BRONJ? Not necessarily.

Cannabis for Bone Health

While smoking a joint isn’t good for your dental health, some of the compounds in marijuana could potentially treat BRONJ and other bone disorders in the future. A 2015 study by the Tel Aviv and Hebrew Universities found that cannabidiol (CBD) — the nonpsychoactive component in cannabis — might help improve bone health after a fracture, helping the bone heal faster and stronger than it was before.

Source: The Weed Blog

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