Aug. 20, 2001
By Nancy Volkers
InteliHealth News Service
Routine dental X-rays can help identify postmenopausal women who are at high risk for stroke, a recent study showed.
“This is a significant finding,” said Arthur H. Friedlander, D.D.S., lead author of the study, which was published in the August Journal of the American Dental Association. “No has ever looked at postmenopausal women using dental radiography (X-rays). This is a unique experiment and a unique finding.”
In the study, fifty-two women aged 55 or older received panoramic dental X-rays, which show all upper and lower teeth on a single film. The X-rays were examined for plaque buildup in a certain section of the carotid artery in the neck. Sixteen women, or 31 percent, had plaque buildup that put them at risk for stroke. Fifteen of the 16 women had high blood pressure.
Menopause-associated changes and other aging processes put women at high risk of stroke. Stroke is more common in men, but more often fatal in women. According to the American Heart Association, women accounted for nearly 61 percent of stroke deaths in 1998.
Friedlander said his study demonstrates a method to identify at-risk women and refer them to the appropriate physician for assessment. “When performing a clinical and radiographic exam of post-menopausal women, dentists need to review the panoramic X-ray,” he said.
Twelve of the 16 women were on some type of hormone-replacement therapy (HRT), which has been shown to reduce the risk of stroke. This study did not find a reduction in risk, probably because HRT is relatively new, said Friedlander.
“I think it’s explained by the large number of years that most of these women went without HRT. It’s consistent with where medicine was 20 or 30 years ago,” he said. “I would hazard a guess that women put on HRT today soon after menopause would have a reduction in risk.”
Friedlander is the director of graduate medical education at Veterans Affairs Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System and a professor of oral and maxillofacial surgery at the University of California, Los Angeles.