Researchers Study Affects of Cholesterol Medicines on Dental Health

Two recent studies have examined how statins—a class of prescription drugs taken by millions of patients worldwide to lower or control cholesterol levels—might affect patients’ dental health.

Researchers at the University of North Carolina School of Dentistry have potentially linked statins to increased calcification of the tooth’s pulp chamber, a condition that makes performing root canals more difficult. The study was published in the September issue of the Journal of Endodontics.

The study evaluated the effects on patients taking statin medication versus patients not taking statin medication. Of 90 patient records reviewed, all were at least 60 years of age and half were on statins. The other half was not taking any medications.

“The results revealed that the patients taking statins showed a significant reduction in the pulp chamber height, meaning an increased calcification of the pulp chamber, when compared to the control group,” said Dr. Mary Pettiette, associate professor in the Department of Endodontics. “Based on this limited data, systemic statins could be a contributing factor for pulp chamber calcification.” Scientists at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School reported that patients taking high doses of statin.

In this study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, patients with heart disease or a high heart disease risk were assigned to take either an 80 mg statin or a 10 mg statin daily for 12 weeks. The 59 patients studied in the final analysis showed a significant reduction in gum inflammation after as few as four weeks of treatment with the high-dose statin and their improvement in gum inflammation tracked closely with improvement in atherosclerotic disease.

“Periodontal disease is characterized by chronic gum inflammation and affects approximately 50 percent of the U.S. adult population," said Ahmed Tawkol, M.D., co-director of the Cardiac Imaging Trials Program at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School and co-author of the study. “Periodontitis and atherosclerosis are both primarily driven by inflammation. These inflammatory conditions tend to co-exist within individuals and their biologies may be intertwined.”

Researchers concluded that the research provides further evidence of a link between periodontal disease and atherosclerosis and demonstrates that treatments aimed at reducing inflammation in one of these conditions may produce improvements for the other. The authors also raise the possibility that improved oral hygiene to reduce inflammation of the gums may lead to reduced inflammation of the arteries.

© 2017 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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