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Researchers study effects of statins on dental health

November 04, 2013

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. The study was published in the September issue of the Journal of Endodontics.

The study evaluated 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 statins had reduced inflammation associated with periodontal disease.

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 coexist within individuals and their biologies may be intertwined.”

Scientists 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.