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Oct 31, 2018

Study Confirms the Link Between Gum Disease and High Blood Pressure

Gum disease may make it harder to treat high blood pressure, finds study of 3,600 U.S. adults.

Gum disease may make it more difficult to treat high blood pressure, based on a recent study that links gum disease to higher blood pressure levels. Findings were recently published in the American Heart Association journal Hypertension and help support the association between gum disease and poorer heart health.

The study included more than 11,750 U.S. adults who completed health surveys and underwent dental exams between 2009 and 2014. Participants were part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which has studied the health of Americans since the early 1960s.

The goal of the recent analysis was to see if gum disease has any impact on blood pressure control. It’s currently estimated that one in three U.S. adults is living with high blood pressure, yet less than half have their condition under control.

Based results of the health questionnaires, 3,626 of patients reported being on treatment for high blood pressure. Of these, just over half had gum disease based on results of dental exams. Most had moderate gum disease, although a small portion had mild or severe gum disease.

After analysis, researchers found that among participants with high blood pressure, those with gum disease had 2.3-3mmHg higher systolic blood pressure than those with healthy gums. Patients with gum disease were also less likely to have their blood pressure under control with medication than those without good oral health.

Researchers noted that the more severe gum disease was, the more likely it was that treatment for high blood pressure would fail.

What this study suggests, according to authors, is that gum disease may impact outcomes in patients with high blood pressure. Findings show that treatment for high blood pressure may not be as effective in patients with gum disease as it would in patients with good oral health. Therefore, taking care of teeth and gums may be an important way to help promote a healthy blood pressure.

Of course, authors note that this study only looked at data from one period of time and can’t tell us about cause and effect. However, findings add to a body of evidence linking gum disease to poorer heart health.

Gum disease, also referred to as periodontal disease, causes chronic inflammation of the gums. It currently affects nearly half of Americans over 30. Experts believe that that inflammation from gum disease may trigger or worsen inflammation in other parts of the body, including blood vessels and arteries. While we don’t fully understand this association, we know that it’s important to maintain good oral health in addition to taking steps to promote better cardiovascular and overall health.

Questions for You to Consider

  • How does inflammation increase cardiovascular risk?

  • The exact role that inflammation plays in cardiovascular health remains unclear. However, experts suggest that the build-up of plaque in the arteries may cause inflammation, and as the body continually attacks these fatty deposits, it can wear the body down and/or cause blood clots—one of the most common causes of heart attack and stroke.
  • What is the connection between gum disease and heart disease?
  • It’s not completely clear. Scientists don’t know whether gum disease actually causes cardiovascular disease. It’s possible that something else is causing both problems. One theory is that bacteria from diseased gums invade the artery wall and cause inflammation to erupt there too. The bacteria may also provoke the body to release several chemicals that cause inflammation in the arteries.

Infographic: High Blood Pressure

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