Ask the Dentist: Study links healthy blood pressure levels and good oral hygiene

Dentist Lucy Stock at Gentle Dental Care in Belfast says a study has established a correlation between good oral health and healthy blood pressure rates

People with healthier gums had lower blood pressure and responded better to blood pressure-lowering medications, according to the study
Lucy Stock

GOOD news for people suffering from high blood pressure; if you keep your mouth in good condition you are more likely to have lower blood pressure and the blood-pressure-lowering drugs appear to work better. This is according to new research in the American Heart Association's journal.

The researchers analysed the health records of more than 3,600 people with high blood pressure. They showed that those with healthier gums have lower blood pressure and responded better to blood pressure-lowering medications, compared with individuals who have gum disease.

Unfortunately, people with gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, were 20 per cent less likely to reach healthy blood pressure ranges, compared with patients in tip top mouth health.

Blood pressure is the pressure of your blood on the walls of your arteries as your heart pumps it around your body. Your blood pressure naturally goes up and down all the time, adjusting to your heart's needs depending on what you are doing. High blood pressure, hypertension, is when your blood pressure is persistently higher than normal with readings of 140 over 90, or higher. It's not just a one-off high reading – your blood pressure must be monitored over several weeks to say if you truly have high blood pressure.

Increased pressure puts extra strain on your heart and blood vessels. Over time, this extra strain increases your risk of a heart attack or stroke.

To bring your blood pressure into a better range, according to recommendations from the American Heart Association, a reduction in blood pressure can be achieved by reducing salt intake by 6 grams per day (equal to a teaspoon of salt, or 2.4 grams of sodium), the researchers said.

"Patients with high blood pressure and the clinicians who care for them should be aware that good oral health may be just as important in controlling the condition as are several lifestyle interventions known to help control blood pressure, such as a low-salt diet, regular exercise and weight control," said study lead investigator Davide Pietropaoli, DDS, PhD, of the University of L'Aquila in Italy.

While the study was not designed to clarify exactly how gum disease interferes with blood pressure treatment, the researchers say their results are consistent with previous research that links low-grade oral inflammation with blood vessel damage and cardiovascular risk.

If you have high blood pressure, then it would seem sensible to visit your dentist and check out the condition of your gums; taking action when necessary.

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