Can carotid artery calcifications on dental radiographs predict adverse vascular events? A systematic review

Clin Oral Investig. 2021 Jan;25(1):37-53. doi: 10.1007/s00784-020-03696-5. Epub 2020 Nov 27.


Objectives: To investigate the predictive value of carotid artery calcifications (CACs) seen on dental imaging for future adverse events related to cerebrovascular and cardiovascular diseases.

Methods: Electronic databases (PubMed, Embase, SCOPUS and Cochrane) and selected grey literature were searched. Outcomes included stroke, transient ischaemic attack (TIA), myocardial infarction (MI), angina, heart failure, future interventional revascularization procedures and death. Risk of bias was assessed using the Newcastle-Ottawa Scale.

Results: 5 studies were selected from 1011 records. All were of moderate to low risk of bias. Results were heterogeneous but showed that patients with CACs on panoramic radiographs (PANs) were more likely to experience strokes, TIA, MI and future revascularization procedures compared to control groups. The differences between groups were not all found to be statistically significant. Bilateral vessel-outlining CACs were an independent risk marker for future vascular events. Patients who are not currently being managed for cardiovascular risk factors should be referred for further evaluation. Those already being treated for atherosclerosis may not benefit from additional investigations.

Conclusion: The evidence for the predictive value of CACs on PANs for adverse future vascular events is equivocal but can help to identify at-risk patients who require further evaluation.

Clinical relevance: Dentists must be able to recognize CACs on PANs and make appropriate referrals for patients to be evaluated for cardiovascular risk factors, especially those who have not previously been assessed.

Keywords: Atheroma; Carotid artery calcifications; Dental imaging; Myocardial infarction; Panoramic radiographs; Stroke.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Carotid Arteries / diagnostic imaging
  • Carotid Artery Diseases* / diagnostic imaging
  • Humans
  • Ischemic Attack, Transient* / diagnostic imaging
  • Myocardial Infarction*
  • Stroke* / diagnostic imaging