Skip to content
News / October 19, 2010

Drug rebuilds bone lost with gum disease

by Guy Hiscott

A drug marketed to grow bone in osteoporosis patients may also work to heal bone wounds in gum disease patients, a study suggests.
The drug is teriparatide and is marketed by Eli Lilly and Co under the trade name Forteo, which is a type of parathyroid hormone and the only anabolic (bone-growing) osteoporosis drug approved on the market in the US.
Last year, women taking bisphosphonates to protect their bones from osteoporosis were warned that they could be at risk of serious jaw damage.
A study by the University of Southern California School of Dentistry suggested that as many as one in 25 users were at risk of osteoncrosis of the jaw.
But Jill Bashutski, clinical assistant professor at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry and first author on the study, says of this latest development: ‘This new approach for the treatment of periodontal disease could allow us to rebuild some of the bone that is lost due to periodontal disease, which until this point has been very difficult to achieve.
‘Current treatments to re-grow bone around teeth affected with gum disease have limited success rates.’
The study, ‘Teriparatide and Osseous Regeneration in the Oral Cavity’ appears online in the New England Journal of Medicine.
It took place at the School of Dentistry’s Michigan Center for Oral Health Research, where patients with severe chronic gum disease received the traditional treatment for gum disease, which is periodontal surgery on one-quarter of the mouth.
Half of the patients took a six-week course of teriparatide by injection into the skin over the abdomen or stomach, plus calcium and vitamin D supplements, while the other half received a placebo.
After one year, researchers saw a 29% improvement in bone-level measurements on X-rays in the teriparatide group, versus a 3% improvement in the placebo group, a 10-fold increase.
Laurie McCauley, U-M professor and chair of periodontics and oral medicine, and principal investigator on the study, adds: ‘I think one really interesting aspect of this study is that even a short dosing of this drug had benefits that lasted a year.’
Forteo is not FDA approved for uses other than osteoporosis, but another possible application could be to help grow bone around dental implants.