This common gum disease may double high blood pressure risk

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In a recent study from UCL Eastman Dental Institute, researchers found that people with periodontitis, a severe gum infection, may be much more likely to have higher blood pressure compared to individuals who had healthy gums.

The study is published in Hypertension. One author is Eva Muñoz Aguilera, D.D.S., M.Clin.Dent.

Periodontitis is an infection of the gum tissues that hold teeth in place that can lead to progressive inflammation, bone or tooth loss.

Prevention and treatment of periodontitis are cost-effective and can lead to the reduction of systemic markers of inflammation as well as improvement in the function of the endothelium (thin membrane lining the inside of the heart and blood vessels).

Previous studies have found a link between high blood pressure and periodontitis, however, research confirming the details of this association is scarce.

In the study, the team tested 250 adults with generalized, severe periodontitis and a group of 250 adults who did not have severe gum disease. The average age of the participants was 35 years.

The researchers found that a diagnosis of gum disease was linked to higher odds of hypertension, independent of common cardiovascular risk factors.

People with gum disease were twice as likely to have high systolic blood pressure values ≥140 mm Hg, compared to people with healthy gums (14% and 7%, respectively).

Researchers also found the presence of active gum inflammation (identified by bleeding gums) was associated with higher systolic blood pressure.

Participants with periodontitis showed increased glucose, LDL (“bad” cholesterol) and lower HDL (“good” cholesterol) levels compared to those in the control group.

The team says patients with gum disease often present with elevated blood pressure, especially when there is active gingival inflammation or bleeding of the gums.

Elevated blood pressure is usually asymptomatic, and many individuals may be unaware that they are at increased risk of heart complications.

Oral health strategies such as brushing teeth twice daily are proven to be very effective in managing and preventing the most common oral conditions.

This study’s results indicate they can also be a powerful and affordable tool to help prevent high blood pressure.

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