Routine Dental X-ray May Be A Valuable Tool In Stroke Prevention

ORLANDO, FLA. -- The dentist's office may become the new first line of defense in the battle to prevent stroke.

Dental researchers in the University at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine are the first to show, in a general population, that a standard dental X-ray taken on new patients to establish a baseline picture of dental health also can detect potentially dangerous calcium deposits in the carotid arteries, the large vessels on both sides of the neck that supply blood to the brain.

In a review of dental X-rays, they detected calcifications in the carotid arteries -- a sign of advanced atherosclerosis, a major cause of stroke -- in 5 percent of the dental X-rays of more than 2,700 new patients in UB's dental clinics. All of the patients were told of the findings and referred to their personal physician for follow-up.

Results of the research were presented here today (Friday, March 21) at the annual meeting of the International Association of Dental Research. They will appear in the June issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association.

"It was a fortuitous finding," said Laurie Carter, D.D.S., Ph.D., a radiologist and associate professor of oral diagnostic sciences in the UB School of Dental Medicine. "If we can see this on a routine dental film, it will be a powerful tool for detecting patients who are at risk but don't know it."

Of the 550,000 people who suffer a stroke annually, most have no symptoms, Carter noted. "If there is anything we can do to protect these people, we have to do it. That is the aim of this study."

Carter decided to investigate the potential of using a type of dental X-ray called a screening panoramic radiograph to detect carotid calcification after reading a journal article from 1981 that reported such a possibility. A panoramic radiograph is a wide-angle frontal X-ray taken during a patient's first visit to establish the initial condition of the teeth and surr

Contact: Lois Baker
University at Buffalo

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