• mandibular alveolar bone;
  • ovariectomy;
  • protein undernutrition;
  • bone histomorphometry;
  • bone densitometry;
  • mastication;
  • proximal tibia


Mandibular and systemic bone loss are poorly associated. We compared the effect of isocaloric protein undernutrition and/or ovariectomy on BMD and microstructure of mandibular alveolar and proximal tibia sites in adult rats. Mandibular bone was significantly less affected.

Introduction: Whether mandibular bone and axial or peripheral skeleton respond similarly to systemic bone loss remains a subject of controversy. We have previously shown that mechanical loading during mastication influences bone mass and architecture of the mandibular alveolar bone. Isocaloric protein undernutrition and ovariectomy are known to cause bone loss and deterioration of bone microarchitecture at various axial and peripheral skeletal sites. We studied how the mandible, which is subjected to heavy, abrupt, and intermittent forces during mastication, responds to low-protein intake and/or ovariectomy and compared this response to that of the proximal tibia in adult rats.

Materials and Methods: Forty-four 6-month-old female Sprague-Dawley rats underwent transabdominal ovariectomy (OVX; n = 22) or sham operation (n = 22) and were pair-fed isocaloric diets containing either 15% or 2.5% casein (sham 15%, n = 11; sham 2.5%, n = 11; OVX 15%, n = 11; and OVX 2.5%, n = 11) for 16 weeks. BMD and bone microarchitecture parameters (e.g., bone volume fraction [BV/TV] and trabecular thickness and number) of the mandible and the proximal tibia were measured at the end of the experiment using DXA and μCT.

Results: Mandibular alveolar bone was negatively influenced by both protein undernutrition and OVX, but to a significantly lesser extent than the proximal tibia. In sham-operated animals, low-protein intake led to a 17.3% reduction of BV/TV in the mandible and 84.6% in the tibia (p < 0.001). In normal protein diet–fed animals, OVX led to a reduction of BV/TV of 4.9% in the mandible but 82% in the tibia (p < 0.001). In the mandible, protein undernutrition resulted in thinner trabeculae (p < 0.05), whereas OVX led to a reduction of trabecular number (p < 0.05).

Conclusions: Mandibular alveolar bone was found to be less sensitive to either protein undernutrition or OVX than the proximal tibia spongiosa. We hypothesize that the mechanical loading of the alveolar process during mastication may protect the alveolar bone from the detrimental effects observed in other skeletal sites, such as the proximal tibia. Morphological and embryological differences between the two skeletal sites might also play a role.