Since odontoclasts share similar characteristics with osteoclasts, this study has examined whether odontoclasts exhibit cytological alteration after treatment with bisphosphonate, which induces apoptosis of osteoclasts. After the administration of bisphosphonate to 6-day-old rabbits, many odontoclasts detached from the dentine surface of the deciduous teeth, resulting in the reduction of tartrate-resistant acid phosphatase (TRAP-ase) and immunoreactivity for cathepsin K. Transmission electron microscopy revealed a number of odontoclasts showing poorly developed or a lack of ruffled borders, a Golgi apparatus markedly reduced in size, and numerous cytoplasmic vesicles. The bisphosphonate-treated odontoclasts displayed fragmented DNA in the pyknotic nuclei evidenced by terminal deoxynucleotidyl-transferase-mediated dUTP-biotin nick-end labeling, indicating that bisphosphonate can induce apoptosis of the odontoclasts. Ultrastructural observations of the apoptotic odontoclasts revealed condensed heterochromatin at the margin of the nuclear envelope, assembled arrays of rough endoplasmic reticulum, and many vacuoles and vesicles. Some apoptotic odontoclasts showed ladder-like structures between the adjacent nuclear envelopes, enlargement of the nuclear envelopes, and the formation of a ribosome-like granular structure in the nuclei. Thus, odontoclasts are able to undergo apoptosis after bisphosphonate treatment; this results in cytological alterations, including reduced resorption activity and the inhibition of protein synthesis/transport as indicated by the diminished TRAPase and cathepsin K and the poorly developed Golgi apparatus, respectively. Nuclear alteration as evidenced by the appearance of ladder-like and ribosome-like structures was characteristic of apoptotic odontoclasts.