While dental implants are, no doubt, an essential innovation in dentistry, they can quickly go south without the proper precautions. Much like other types of dental treatment and dental procedures, there’s always a wrong way to place dental implants. High-risk patients often include those with bone issues (like osteoporosis). One complication is jaw osteonecrosis or jawbone death. While there have been dental treatments for it, a new treatment for jaw osteonecrosis seems to be making rounds nowadays.
Dental treatment options for osteonecrosis have been around for some time. But they’re not always practical. Usually, it’s treated with antibiotics, analgesics, and some therapeutic mouthwash. But while it does combat the infection, it doesn’t address the problem in the long term.
The new treatment for jaw osteonecrosis uses teriparatide. Teriparatide is one of the hormones involved in bone formation. It’s also for this reason why it’s often used when treating specific types of osteoporosis. And, as it turns out, it can help fix up the damage caused by necrosis.
But what can we learn about this new treatment for jaw osteonecrosis? And what does this mean for future dental treatment around this ailment?
What are the risk factors for osteonecrosis of the jaw (ONJ), anyway?
To understand the new treatment for jaw osteonecrosis and its significance, let’s first get into the risk factors. High-risk patients are usually those with pre-existing bone conditions. Just like osteoporosis. But while it’s easy to infer that the implants hurts already-compromised bones (which is why osteonecrosis happens), surprisingly, the risk factors come from another reason.
When you have bone diseases, you need to take medications called bisphosphonates. In bisphosphonate therapy, the medications help prevent your bones from losing their density. They do this by blocking the bone cells that break down minerals in your bone. These cells are called osteoclasts. By doing this, they let the bone cells that build up bone (called osteoblasts) do their job in increasing bone mass and density.
What does this have to do with ONJ? If you’re under bisphosphonate therapy, you allow your osteoblasts time to rebuild the lost bone. But sometimes this remodeling doesn’t always go the way it’s supposed to. When you get a dental implant while taking bisphosphonate therapy, dental treatment can cause a disruption in the bone-building process.
What makes this new treatment for jaw osteonecrosis so important?
ONJ is a disease that starts at a structural level. Any treatments that only take care of the infection won’t do much to solve dying bone. This is where the use of teriparatide comes in. On the surface, high-risk patients can still take the usual course of antibiotics, analgesics, and therapeutic mouthwash to treat the infection. Afterward, however, they’re given an injection of teriparatide every week.
Researchers from the Yonsei University College of Dentistry note that during the treatment period, patients had lost the dead bone and had healed wounds. The new treatment for jaw osteonecrosis, then, does show a lot of promise. But it still needs a lot of testing for side effects before it can be perfected, particularly in the long term. Nonetheless, we’re looking forward to what the future holds for it.