Two recent studies have shed some light on the negative impact poor oral health has on blood pressure.
According to new research in the American Heart Association’s journal, Hypertension, people with high blood pressure who are taking medication for their condition are more likely to benefit from the therapy if they have good oral health.
A little neglect has a large impact: Those with inflamed gums – the first step toward gum disease – are less likely to reach their target blood pressure than those with good oral health.
In a review of more than 3,600 people with high blood pressure, it revealed that those with healthier gums responded better to blood pressure-lowering medications. Specifically, people with periodontal disease were 20 percent less likely to reach healthy blood pressure ranges. This finding does not suggest gum disease causes hypertension. Nor did the researchers investigate whether treating gum disease would lower high blood pressure or make medications work better. The study does highlight the difficulties of controlling hypertension if you have poor oral health. (1)
There is a great danger posed by infected, bleeding gums. Open wounds in the mouth provide a door for bacteria to enter the blood stream. If bacteria were to find its way to a heart valve, they could multiply and begin producing toxins and enzymes that could destroy the valve (also known as infective endocarditis or IE). Without timely treatment, IE is fatal. IE can be cured with antibiotics and other treatments, but only if the problem is caught early. Once a valve has been damaged and begins leaking, however, it will not heal, even if the infection is cured. (2)
In a separate study, researchers believe that postmenopausal women who go through tooth loss also have a higher risk of developing high blood pressure.
A study that followed nearly 37,000 women from 1998 to 2015 – after their first periodontal assessment – found that they had about a 20 percent increased risk of developing hypertension or high blood pressure.
While the study’s researchers found no direct connection between periodontal disease and hypertension, the disease’s effects can lead to developing different eating habits, such as eating more of softer, processed foods with higher sodium content.
The researchers recommend better hygiene habits and more frequent blood pressure checks, as well as consuming foods with lower amounts of sodium and weight loss to reduce hypertension. (3)
(2) Cleveland Clinic, Heart Advisor, April 2019
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