The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) has awarded the PEARL Network, a regional practice-based research network at the NYU College of Dentistry, a $1M, one-year, jaw osteonecrosis research grant, in conjunction with two other regional networks, the Dental Practice-Based Research Network of the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Dentistry and the Northwest Practice-Based Research Collaborative in Evidence-Based Dentistry of the University of Washington School of Dentistry in Seattle.

The PEARL (Practitioners Engaged in Applied Research and Learning) Network was established in April 2005 with a $26.7 million grant from the NIDCR to create a network of private dental practitioners engaged in research of immediate relevance to the profession and the public.

The study is being led by Dr. Ananda Dasanayake, a member of the PEARL Network’s executive management team and a Professor of Epidemiology & Health Promotion at NYU.

The study will examine whether there is a link between jaw osteonecrosis and the use of bisphosphonate drugs that were introduced more than a decade ago for osteoporosis and metatastic bone tumor treatment. Jaw osteonecrosis is a rare but serious condition that involves severe loss, or destruction, of the jawbone. It is extremely painful, interferes with nutrition and is difficult to treat. Federal health officials decided to fund the research after several recent studies suggested a growing incidence of jaw osteonecrosis in both osteoporosis and cancer patients who have taken the drugs. More than 200 such cases have been identified by the three practice-based research networks.

Researchers from PEARL and its partner networks also will assess whether certain dental procedures, such as tooth extractions, put patients taking bisphosphonates at an added risk of developing jaw osteonecrosis. They plan to enroll a total of 550 subjects — one-third of whom will be dental patients with osteonecrosis, and the remainder a control group of dental patients who do not have the condition.

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