Health Center dentists and physicians have received a five-year, $2.6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to study the relationship between osteoporosis - or bone fragility - and the success or failure of jawbone regeneration and the placement of dental implants.
The study will be conducted by Dr. Martin Freilich of the Department of Oral Rehabilitation, Biomaterials, and Skeletal Development, and a multidisciplinary team of basic and clinical scientists in medicine and dentistry that includes David Pendrys, an epidemiologist; Pamela Taxel, a bone endocrinologist; David Shafer, an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, Susan Reisine, a medical behavioral scientist; and Alan Lurie, an oral and maxillofacial radiologist.
"Evidence suggests that bone disorders such as osteoporosis may compromise the success of dental implant placements that require preliminary bone building procedures," says Freilich.
"Our study is designed to be a critical first step in understanding that potentially important relationship."
Osteoporosis is a major public health issue in the aging population, affecting 44 million Americans. The use of dental implants to replace missing teeth is a rapidly growing treatment.
"As we rely more and more on dental implants, and as our population ages, it becomes important to know if there is a relationship between systemic bone health and the success or failure of dental reconstruction with bone grafting implant placement," says Freilich.
After a tooth is lost or extracted, the jawbone tends to shrink because of the absence of chewing forces. As a result, jawbone often has to be augmented or built up, typically with the use of bone grafts, to support a dental implant.
During the study, Freilich and his research team will evaluate surgical bone augmentation and the outcomes of dental implants among post-menopausal women with varying degrees of bone health that are typical of the aging population.
They plan to recruit 120 women for the study.
The long-range goal, according to Freilich, is to test new methods to guide bone formation at deficient implant sites.
Before team members can design clinical studies to test newer procedures for regenerating new bone, they want to understand the relationship between bone health and the success or failure of current surgical grafting methods.
Specifically, the study is designed to help the researchers develop a reliable estimate of the two-year success rate of bone augmentation and dental implants in women with broadly varying bone density measurements.
It will also help them assess the relationship between bone health measurements and implant success or failure.
Currently, according to Freilich, there is some evidence of an association between implant failure and low bone mineral density.
Freilich and his team will take into consideration several additional bone health indicators, such as biochemical markers of bone turnover, fracture history, and vitamin D levels.
The team has already done considerable work on implant placement and novel approaches to growing new bone.
"This study builds upon the work we have done," says Freilich, "and helps us move forward to develop and evaluate new and potentially valuable therapies to manage jawbone resorption, both in healthy patients and in those whose bone health is compromised."