Abstract The use of bisphosphonate drugs has been popularised in the late 20th century for the management of many conditions associated with abnormalities of bone turnover, particularly metastatic and haematogenous malignancy and osteopenia. The increase in indications for the use of bisphosphonates was supported by what was thought to be a very good safety profile. However in 2003 cases of osteonecrosis related to the use of bisphosphonates were first described. The pathogenesis, and with this the explanation of why it only appears to affect the maxillofacial skeleton, and the best way of managing this problem remains unknown. In this review we examine the process of identification of this pathology and the development of guidelines from medical societies and professional bodies on the management of patients before commencing bisphosphonate therapy, requiring dental treatment whilst on therapy, or with a diagnosis of bisphosphonate associated osteonecrosis of the jaws.