Bone Density Testing: Everything You Need to Know about It

If a medical professional suspect that a person may be at risk of osteoporosis, a doctor may recommend an X-ray, CT scan, or ultrasound test to determine how dense their bones are. A higher bone density means more bone material is present in the bones.

Bone density tests are used to help identify risk factors and assess the severity of osteoporosis. In this guide, let’s take a look at everything we should know about bone density testing.

What Is Bone Density Testing?

Bone density testing is a method used to measure bone mineral density. A bone density test (DEXA scan) is considered the gold standard of osteoporosis testing and is used to evaluate an individual’s risk of osteoporosis.

A special type of X-ray known as a dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry or DEXA is used to create a picture of how much of the mineral inside the bones is actually located on the surface of the bone.

Think of the bones as a large house with a thin layer of stucco on top. Stucco is the mineral that protects the bone from the elements. If the stucco has large cracks in it, the bone is more likely to suffer. If there is more stucco, the bone is more likely to be protected.

Why It Is Important

Bone density tests are specifically designed to detect a bone loss disorder known as osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is characterized by a deterioration of the bone structure and is the most common type of bone disease in the United States. 

It affects approximately 10 million men and women in the United States and causes over 1.5 million fractures each year.

What Is a Normal Mineral Density?

A normal bone mineral density is defined as a T-score of greater than -1.0, or a Z-score of greater than or equal to -1.0. These scores indicate that the test results are lower than normal, but not to a point that would require treatment. 

In other words, these scores indicate that an individual is at higher risk of osteoporosis, but there is no need for treatment right now.

How It Works

A bone density test using a DEXA machine is generally painless as the machine is not radioactive, and it delivers a very small amount of radiation to the body. The DEXA machine takes multiple X-ray images of the spine and hip while the person is lying still on a table. It takes only a few minutes to complete.

Although the test is relatively painless, the noise of the machine and the need to remain still may cause you to feel uncomfortable. Don’t worry, though. The DEXA machine does not use any radiation and the noise is just the fan for the machine.

What Affects Bone Density?

Bone density is affected by a number of things, including genetics, hormones, diet, and lifestyle. The following are some major factors that can affect bone density:

  • Genetics
  • Age and Gender
  • Trauma
  • Inactivity
  • Smoking
  • Drinking alcohol


Bone density testing is a great way to find out if you are at risk for fractures due to osteoporosis, and it is an affordable and non-invasive way to find out. It can help identify the best treatment option and can help the patient live a more active, healthy life.

It’s best to meet with a primary care doctor to further discuss the state of your bone density and overall health. At Garden State Medical Group, we provide only quality care from the best medical practitioners. Consult with us today!

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