Journal Article

Induction of osteopenia during experimental tooth movement in the rat: alveolar bone remodelling and the mechanostat theory

Trudy J. Milne, Ionut Ichim, Bhavik Patel, Andrew McNaughton and Murray C. Meikle

in The European Journal of Orthodontics

Published on behalf of European Orthodontics Society

Volume 31, issue 3, pages 221-231
Published in print June 2009 | ISSN: 0141-5387
Published online June 2009 | e-ISSN: 1460-2210 | DOI:
Induction of osteopenia during experimental tooth movement in the rat: alveolar bone remodelling and the mechanostat theory

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Increases in bone strains above a certain threshold have a positive effect on bone mass, whereas reductions in strain magnitude lead to bone loss and osteopenia; the term ‘mechanostat’ has been introduced to describe this tissue-level negative feedback mechanism. The mechanobiology of bone and particularly alveolar bone is poorly understood, and whether the mechanostat theory has any relevance to explaining the osseous changes that occur during orthodontic tooth movement remains unclear. To investigate the relationship further, an expansile force of 0.2 N was applied to the maxillary molars of 36, 6-week-old Wistar rats by helical coil springs. The animals were sacrificed at 1, 2, 4, and 8 days and the tissue response analyzed by histological, biochemical, and finite element (FE) methods. Differences between groups were determined by Student's t-test (two-tailed).

The appliance produced an increase in the intermolar width averaging 0.5 mm after 8 days. Tetracycline uptake in the control rats suggested a rapid turnover of bone in both the interradicular domain and the bone–periodontal ligament interface. In the experimental group, however, incorporation of tetracycline into the interradicular domain was reduced and conventional histology revealed evidence of bone loss and osteopenia, in both the experimental and a group of sham-treated positive controls (with inactive, annealed springs). Serum alkaline phosphatase declined significantly in both experimental and sham-treated groups over the 8-day time course, indicating decreased bone formation. Serum acid phosphatase also declined, suggesting a concomitant decrease in bone resorption. Three-dimensional FE analysis of the stresses generated in the bone following occlusal (2 N) and orthodontic loading showed that the orthodontic force created a constant loading condition shielding some areas of bone from mechanical stress. Areas of low mechanical stimulation were coincident with sites of bone loss observed histologically, while bone mass was preserved in areas with higher levels of loading.

These findings suggest that (1) the osteopenia resulted from stress shielding of the interradicular bone by the appliance, and a consequent reduction in occlusal loading below the critical threshold required for maintaining normal osseous architecture and (2) the mechanostat model can be employed to explain, at least in part, the response of the bone to orthodontic loading.

Journal Article.  5581 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Restorative Dentistry and Orthodontics

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