A world-first study by Australian dental researchers has discovered alink between taking aspirin and protection against gum disease.
The study, by Dr Arthur Drouganis and Dr Robert Hirsch at AdelaideUniversity's Dental School, shows that even ex-smokers can benefit fromsmall doses of aspirin.
Gum disease is a major problem in Australia, with an estimated 10% ofthe population suffering from its most severe form, known asperiodontitis. The problem particularly affects smokers and ex-smokers.
Periodontitis causes deterioration of the structures in the gums thathold the teeth in place. This can result in the teeth falling out.
In the first study of its kind, Dr Drouganis and Dr Hirsch investigatedthe dental health of 392 Adelaide men who were ex- or non-smokers. (Menwere chosen for the study because mature-aged women can be affected byhormonal changes which can influence the health of the gums.)
The study found that men aged 50 and above who were taking low doses ofaspirin to prevent heart attacks, strokes and other vascular diseases,had significantly better gum health than those who did not take aspirin.
Non-smokers were better off than ex-smokers, which confirmed the alreadywell-documented findings that smoking has a negative effect on gumhealth. (Smokers also have fewer teeth at a given age than non-smokers,with ex-smokers being in the middle of the range.)
The implications of these findings are that low doses of aspirin mayprotect the fibres and ligaments that attach the gums to the teeth. Thisis possibly because aspirin inhibits the action of prostaglandin E2, achemical messenger that triggers bone loss in severe gum disease.
"Our findings show that people aged over 50, particularly ex-smokers andprobably smokers, may reduce their risk of deteriorating gums by takinglow doses of aspirin (100mg) daily," Dr Drouganis says.
He says an important distinction needs to be drawn between superficialgum inflammation, known as gingivitis, and severe gum disease orperiodontitis.
"People might think that if they have bleeding gums, the most commonsymptom of any gum disease, they might benefit from taking aspirin. They certainly wouldn't," he says.
"Only those people who have a history of severe gum disease wouldbenefit from low doses of aspirin, and they may be identified by theirdentist or periodontist. They should, of course, discuss this withtheir doctor to avoid interference with other medications or medicalconditions."
* 3 Photos are available at http://www.adelaide.edu.au/media_photos/
Dr Arthur Drouganis: (08) 8272 8550 work, (08) 8344 8779 home, 0418848 500 mobile
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