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What we didn't know about cholesterol lowering statin drugs and our gums

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Statin drugs also treat gum disease.

There has been a lot of research about cholesterol lowering drugs known as statins. But there's one thing we didn't know - until now. Taking a statin can help treat gum disease. Periodontal disease is also linked to increase risk of heart disease.

Periodontitis and heart disease both inflammatory

Dr Ahmed Tawakol, from Harvard Medical School in the US who led the study explains gum disease and atherosclerosis are both caused by inflammation.

“These inflammatory conditions tend to co-exist within individuals and their biologies may be intertwined.”

Heart disease patients or those at risk were divided into two groups for the study. One group was given a high dose cholesterol lowering drug and the other a low dose.

After just 4-weeks of treatment with an 80 mg statin dose, 59 study participants had significant improvements in their gum disease. They also had less artery plaque from atherosclerosis.

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The finding that is published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology suggests statins have a role in treating both gum disease and heart disease.

Tawakol also says if you are a patient you should tell your doctor about gum disease. What is going on in your mouth could affect your heart and vice versa.

Periodontal disease can also lead to loss of teeth and bone, expensive dental treatments, teeth implants, dentures or bridges in the future. There are also steps you should take to prevent gum disease.

There are a few other things cholesterol lowering drugs can do too that you might not know about:

  • A 2011 study showed anti-cholesterol lowering drugs might lower the chances of dying from the flu. The finding was published in the January 1, issue of the Journal of Infectious Diseases.
  • Statin drugs have also been suggested as a way to protect public health when antiviral medications are scares, in addition to possible helping treat bird flu.
  • Another recent finding suggested statins might reduce our chances of dementia by thirty-three percent. The anti-cholesterol drugs might even make us smarter because they help keep brain inflammation and vascular disease at bay.
  • Another study showed cholesterol lowering drugs might help treat traumatic brain injury.

The new finding adds another use for cholesterol drugs for treating gum disease. The statin used in the study was atorvastatin, which is the generic name for Lipitor. The study authors say the finding means the medications may also lower inflammation outside of the arteries, as was the case for reducing inflammation associated with periodontitis.

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