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Myeloma cells can weaken, dissolve and even make bones break. Drugs called bisphosphonates can help bones stay strong by slowing down this process. The bisphosphonates most often used for myeloma are zoledronic acid (Zometa®) and pamidronate (Aredia®). These are given into a vein (IV), most often once a month.

Bisphosphonate treatment does have a rare but serious side effect. Some patients complain of pain in the jaw and doctors find that part of the bone of the upper or lower jaw bone has died. This can lead to loss of teeth in that area. Infections of the jaw bone may also develop. Doctors aren’t sure why this happens or how best to prevent it. But having jaw surgery or having a tooth removed can trigger this problem. These should not be done during treatment. One way to avoid these dental procedures is to take good care of your mouth by flossing, brushing, making sure that dentures fit right, and having regular dental check-ups. You might want to have a dental check-up and have any tooth or jaw problems treated before starting bisphosphonate treatment.

If you’d like more information on a drug used in your treatment or a specific drug mentioned in this section, see our Guide to Cancer Drugs , or call us with the names of the medicines you’re taking.

Last Medical Review: 05/22/2014
Last Revised: 01/19/2016