Two Studies on Statins and Oral Health

By Catherine M. Fascilla, D.D.S.

Statins are a class of drugs prescribed by doctors to reduce cholesterol levels in the blood, helping to prevent heart attacks and strokes. Commonly prescribed statins include Simvastatin, Lovastatin and Pravastatin. They work by blocking the action of the liver enzyme that is responsible for producing cholesterol. Too much cholesterol in the blood can cause a buildup of plaque on the walls of the arteries. The buildup can eventually cause the arteries to narrow or harden, a condition called atherosclerosis. Sudden blood clots in the narrow arteries can cause a heart attack or stroke.

The March edition of Dentistry Today reports the finding of two studies on the oral affects of statin drugs. One study done at the University of North Carolina School of Dentistry potentially links statins with increased calcifications of the tooth’s pulp chamber. The pulp chamber is the internal portion of the teeth where the nerve is found. Ninety patients were evaluated and those taking statin drugs were found to have significantly decreased pulp sizes due to calcifications. The potential problem with calcifications is that it can possibly make root canal treatment difficult to perform in the event that a root canal is necessary. Root canals are only necessary when the nerve space has been invaded by bacteria due to tooth decay, cracks or some sort of trauma to the tooth.

Another study conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School compared patients taking an 80mg dose of statin to those taking 10 mg daily for twelve weeks. The 59 patients who were taking the higher dose were found to have a significant reduction in gum inflammation after only four weeks of treatment and their improvement in gum inflammation tracked closely with improvement in atherosclerotic disease. The researchers believe that this provides more evidence of a link between gum disease and atherosclerosis and demonstrates that treatments aimed at reducing inflammation in one of these conditions may produce improvements for the other.

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