Researchers at the University of Michigan studied 40 patients with periodontal disease. All were treated traditionally with periodontal surgery, but only half the group also received teriparatide injections for six weeks.

After one year, the group given teriparatide had a 29 percent improvement in their bone levels, compared to a 3 percent improvement among those who didn’t get the injections. The patients taking teriparatide also saw more improvement in depth of the pockets between their teeth and gums.

“This is a small study but the very promising results suggest that this type of therapy could be very beneficial for patients with periodontal gum disease,” explains the study’s principal investigator, Laurie K. McCauley, PhD, professor and chair of Periodontics and Oral Medicine at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

McCauley stresses that her study did not evaluate the impact of teriparatide on osteonecrosis, but she says all of these reports taken together increase the likelihood there will be more research on this topic in the future.

“There have been a few case reports of teriparatide use in osteoporosis patients with osteonecrosis with promising outcomes," McCauley says. “Our study suggests that it would be valuable to perform more studies of the action of teriparatide in oral bone that could support therapeutic approaches for osteoporosis patients in need of regenerating bone in the oral cavity.”  

In an accompanying editorial, Andrew Grey, MD, of the University of Auckland in New Zealand agrees these initial reports and studies are promising, but he stresses many questions still remain – everything from dosing to cost to long-term effects.

Mark Varvares, MD, director of the Saint Louis University Cancer Center in Missouri has questions, too. He says while teriparatide might work for patients with early stage osteonecrosis, he has trouble believing it would make much of a difference for patients with a severe case of the disorder.  

“By the time we see patients, a good chunk of the bone is dead and the only way to treat it is remove it,” Dr. Varvares says. “The bone can’t be revived. It has to be removed once it gets to that stage. So I don’t know how you would incorporate this new drug in treating patients with that disorder.”