Endodontics, Faculty and Staff, Research

Pettiette Leads Study Potentially Linking Cholesterol Drugs and Tooth Pulp Calcification

The Journal of Endodontics has published research findings, led by Dr. Mary Pettiette, which potentially links a popular class of cholesterol-controlling drug, statins, to increased calcification of the tooth’s pulp chamber. The study is in the journal’s September issue under the title “Potential correlation between statins and pulp chamber calcification.”

“High cholesterol is a known risk factor for cardiovascular disease,” said Pettiette, who is currently an associate professor in the Department of Endodontics. “Statins are used to lower the level of cholesterol in the blood by reducing its production in the liver. Typically, they’re the first-choice drug for reducing cholesterol levels. Approximately 255 million adults worldwide are prescribed statins to help reduce the risk for cardiovascular diseases.”

The study evaluated the effects on patients taking statin medication versus patients not taking statin medication. Through a power analysis, Pettiette and her team selected 90 patient records to review. These records needed to include quality digital bitewing x-rays of the molars to ensure accuracy when measuring the dimensions of the pulp chambers. Of the group selected, all were at least 60 years of age and half were on statins. The other half was not taking any medications.

“The results revealed that the patients taking statins showed a significant reduction in the pulp chamber height, meaning an increased calcification of the pulp chamber, when compared to the control group,” explained Pettiette. “Based on this limited data, systemic statins could be a contributing factor for pulp chamber calcification. Additional studies are needed to confirm this finding. What is certain, though, is pulp calcification makes endodontic access to the tooth for treatment more challenging, and specialized techniques and tools will be useful for this condition.”

In addition to the study being published, the Journal of Endodontics highlighted the article on their website and also are currently featuring a podcast interview of Pettiette on their homepage, www.jendodon.com. The study published in the Journal of Endodontics was authored by Pettiette and three of her UNC colleagues: Dr. Asma Khan, assistant professor in the Department of Endodontics; Dr. Antonio Moretti, associate professor in the Department of Periodontology; and Dr. Sheng Zhong, a former endodontic graduate student in the Department of Endodontics. The study was funded by the American Association of Endodontists Foundation.