A new study published in the journal Hypertension has found that gum disease is linked to high blood pressure. The researchers studied 250 adults with generalized, severe periodontitis and 250 people without gum disease. Periodontitis is a severe gum infection that can eventually lead to tooth loss and other health complications. All of the study participants were healthy and did not have any other health conditions.
The participants had comprehensive periodontal examinations conducted to assess the severity of their gum disease. Blood pressure assessments were also conducted multiple times for each participant while fasting blood samples were also analyzed to look for signs of increased inflammation in the body.
“Additional information analyzed as confounders included family history of cardiovascular disease, age, body mass index, gender, ethnicity, smoking and physical activity levels,” reads a press release on the study.
The researchers concluded that a diagnosis of gum disease was linked to increased likelihood of hypertension, irrespective of common cardiovascular risk factors. In addition, individuals with gum disease were also twice as likely to have higher systolic blood pressures, which refer to the force the heart exerts on the walls of the arteries each time it beats.
"This evidence indicates that periodontal bacteria cause damage to the gums and also triggers inflammatory responses that can impact the development of systemic diseases including hypertension," study author Francesco D'Aiuto stated in the release.
"This would mean that the link between gum disease and elevated blood pressure occurs well before a patient develops high blood pressure. Our study also confirms that a worryingly high number of individuals are unaware of a possible diagnosis of hypertension,” he added.
“Oral health strategies such as brushing teeth twice daily are proven to be very effective in managing and preventing the most common oral conditions, and our study's results indicate they can also be a powerful and affordable tool to help prevent hypertension,” he continued.
The study did not take into account other factors that may also affect blood pressure, such as obesity, salt intake, use of anti-inflammatory medications, stress and hormone treatments.