Cholesterol Drugs May Boost Your Gums' Health, Too
Study finds statins reduce gum inflammation
The current study lends support to the idea that statins can reduce inflammation. It included 83 adults who had risk factors for, or already had, atherosclerosis. They were randomly assigned to take either 10 or 80 milligrams of a statin called atorvastatin (brand name Lipitor) for three months.
Everyone underwent imaging at the start of the study, again after four weeks and then at 12 weeks.
At the end of the study, the investigators had complete data on 59 people. They found a significant reduction in gum inflammation for the people taking 80 mg of atorvastatin compared to those on the 10-mg dose. Changes began as early as four weeks after people started taking the higher-dose drug.
There was a more significant reduction in gum inflammation for people who had more serious gum disease at the start of the study and took a higher dose of the statin. The researchers also found that a reduction in gum inflammation correlated with reduced blood vessel inflammation.
"It was really those on the higher-dose statins that had the benefit," noted Tawakol. But, "I would not recommend the use of statins outside the current guidelines," he added. "We see this trial more as a proof-of-principle trial. Our findings need to be confirmed in a larger clinical trial."
Still, he said, there's little harm in telling people to take care of gum disease. "Patients with known heart disease and known gum disease should have their gum disease evaluated and treated," Tawakol said.
Blaha agreed that it's too soon to change practice guidelines either for treating heart disease risk factors or for gum disease.
Still, "this study and others like it have tremendous implications," Blaha said. "We've never had a drug that worked this well and for so many different groups of patients."