Matthew R. Allen, Tien-Min Gabriel Chu, Salvatore L. Ruggiero
Factors contributing to osteonecrosis of the jaw with anti-remodeling drug treatment are unclear. Epidemiologic and experimental studies have suggested the combination of bisphosphonates and dexamethasone results in osteonecrosis of the jaw more often than either agent alone. The goal of this study was to assess the combination of these 2 drugs in a large animal model previously shown to be susceptible to exposed bone in the oral cavity when treated with bisphosphonates. Skeletally mature beagle dogs were untreated controls or treated with zoledronic acid (ZOL), dexamethasone (DEX), or ZOL plus DEX. ZOL and DEX were given at doses based on those used in humans. All animals underwent single molar extraction at 7 and 8 months after the start of the study. Extraction sites were obtained at month 9 for assessment of osseous healing using micro–computed tomography and histology. No animals were observed to have exposed bone after dental extraction, yet 1 animal treated with ZOL and 1 treated with ZOL plus DEX had severely disrupted extraction sites as viewed by computed tomography and histology. These 2 animals had an intense periosteal reaction that was less obvious but still present in all ZOL-treated animals and absent from untreated animals. There was no significant difference in bone volume within the socket among groups at 4 or 8 weeks after healing, yet the ratio of surface to volume was significantly higher in animals treated with ZOL plus DEX at 8 weeks compared with control animals. These findings suggest a more complex pathophysiology to osteonecrosis of the jaw than is implied by previous epidemiologic studies and those in rodents and raise questions about the potential role of DEX in its etiology.