Ordinary dental x-rays could detect osteoporosis automatically

Source: ZeeNews

Washington, Jan 05: Manchester University dentists have created a unique way of identifying osteoporosis sufferers from ordinary dental x-rays.

Working in collaboration with colleagues at the Universities of Athens, Leuven, Amsterdam, and Malmo, they developed a software-based approach to detecting osteoporosis during routine dental x-rays, by automatically measuring the thickness of part of the patient`s lower jaw.

Professor Keith Horner and Dr Hugh Devlin of the university’s School of Dentistry drew on the ‘active shape modelling’ technology developed by the Division of Imaging Sciences to automatically detect jaw cortex widths of less than 3mm, a key indicator of osteoporosis.

"At the start of our study we tested 652 women for osteoporosis using the current `gold standard`, and highly expensive, DXA test. This identified 140 sufferers," explained Professor Horner.

"Our automated X-ray test immediately flagged-up over half of these. The patients concerned may not otherwise have been tested for osteoporosis, and in a real-life situation would immediately be referred for conclusive DXA testing," he added.

The researchers say that the new check up for osteoporosis is so cheap and simple that every dentist can conduct it.

"This cheap, simple and largely-automated approach could be carried out by every dentist taking routine x-rays, yet the success rate is as good as having a specialist consultant on hand," said Professor Horner.

Dr Devlin said that the diagnosis did not depend on patients’ awareness that they were at the risk of contacting the disease.

"As well as being virtually no extra work for the dentist, the diagnosis does not depend on patients being aware that they are at risk of the disease. Just by introducing a simple tool and getting healthcare professionals working together, around two in five sufferers undertaking routine dental x-rays could be identified," he said.

Dr Devlin expressed hopes that their new test would even encourage older women to visit the dentists more regularly.

"The test might even encourage older women to visit the dentist more regularly!" he said.

The study has been published online in the Elsevier journal Bone.

Bureau Report