For several years, researchers have debated about the extent that gum disease may affect heart health, but a new study indicates that high-dose statins may reduce gum inflammation in people with heart disease in as little as four weeks. The results point out the need for regular dental care to treat gum disease and tooth decay that can lead to inflammation.
Statins are best known for their ability to lower blood cholesterol, which is a major contributor to heart disease in many patients. The build-up of cholesterol in arteries has been linked to heart attacks, strokes and peripheral vascular disease.
"Periodontal disease is characterized by chronic gum inflammation and affects approximately 50 percent of the U.S. adult population," study co-author Ahmed Tawakol, M.D., co-director of the cardiac imaging trials program at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, told Medical News Today. "Periodontitis and atherosclerosis are both primarily driven by inflammation. These inflammatory conditions tend to co-exist within individuals and their biologies may be intertwined."
The study included 83 people with heart disease or a high risk of developing the ailment. Some were given an 80-milligram dose of statins and other participants were administered 10 mg. They were given CT scans after four weeks and at the end of the 12-week trial.
Those who took a higher dose of statins showed a significant reduction in gum inflammation when they were scanned after four weeks as well as a reduction in atherosclerosis, a condition in which the arteries thicken as a result of cholesterol build-up. The findings were published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
Need for regular dental care
The study results heighten the connection between good oral care and heart health. Tawakol recommended that patients tell their doctors if they have gum disease so that it can be treated, particularly if they have heart disease or a history of strokes.
For people who aren't seeing a dentist regularly because they have no dental insurance and can't manage the high cost of premiums, the findings are particularly important. An affordable alternative is to purchase a dental plan, which offers many dentistry services at reduced prices. Having regular exams will help them prevent gum inflammation from developing or getting worse.
The researchers indicated that larger studies are needed to examine the underlying conditions that are believed to tie gum disease to inflammation in the arteries.
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