Statins may reduce periodontal disease inflammation

The effect of statins on cholesterol levels is well known, but it turns out the lipid-lowering drugs may have another benefit. A study published online Sept. 25 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that a high dose of atorvastatin reduced periodontal disease (PD) inflammation.

“We specifically tested the hypothesis that atorvastatin treatment would lower periodontal disease activity, mirroring its action on atherosclerotic plaque activity, thereby providing a link between both disease states,” wrote the authors, led by Sharath Subramainian, MD, of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

In the study, funded by Merck & Co., researchers randomized 83 patients at 10 U.S. institutions with diagnosed atherosclerosis or risk factors to receive either 80 mg of atorvastatin (Lipitor, Pfizer) or 10 mg of atorvastatin. Patients underwent FDG-PET/CT at the start of the study, at four weeks and at 12 weeks. They measured FDG uptake in the carotid arteries and periodontal tissue. The final analysis included 59 patients who provided images.

Baseline images revealed higher target-to-background ratio (TBR) in areas of severe PD compared to areas without severe PD (3.83 vs. 3.18). At the end of 12 weeks, the amount of periodontal inflammation was significantly reduced in patients in the high-dose atorvastatin group compared with patients in the lower dose group. The difference between the groups was greater in patients with more PD inflammation and severe PD bone loss at the start of the study.

Their findings, the researchers wrote, offer additional proof that PD and atherosclerosis are linked. They found a significant association between PD and carotid imaging parameters at the start of the study as well as an association between changes of both imaging parameters over 12 weeks of treatment with atorvastatin. The mechanism behind that association, however, is not yet known. 

They further argued that statins may reduce inflammation in non-arterial tissue and that reducing PD inflammation may ultimately lead to decreased atherosclerotic inflammation.

“If confirmed by larger prospective outcome studies, statins would prove to be a useful adjunctive treatment for periodontal disease, with efficacy seen within one month,” the authors wrote.