Gum disease and hypertension. Yes, really. At the surface, it probably seems like these two conditions are worlds apart since your cardiovascular system and oral health operate independently of one another… or do they?
If you read our article on the link between tooth loss and heart disease then you already know that the distinct systems in your body can all influence each other. According to the World Health Organization, over one billion people suffer from hypertension.
Gum disease, on the other hand, is the 11th most prevalent disease in the world making it a widespread issue in its own right. Today we’re going to explore further with our objective overview of the potential link between gum disease and hypertension.
What the Studies Show
Whenever we write an article with a scope beyond oral health, we always use credible studies as a basis since we don’t want to provide information unless it comes from experts in the respective field. The prompt for this article comes from a piece in the ESC.
The European Society of Cardiology is a well-known medical journal, and a recent study under their Cardiovascular Research section has brought some attention to the potential link between hypertension and gum disease.
If you want the short answer then their data showed that those who have gum disease are more likely to be hypertensive. Some doctors have suggested that this is a case of reverse causation and that hypertension actually increases the odds of periodontitis.
That being said, scientists are yet to find evidence backing up the reverse causation theory behind the published study. You may think that the results are merely due to coincidental overlap since both conditions are so common, but the numbers were adjusted to factor that in.
Cases of moderate gum disease led to an increase in the odds of developing hypertension by a factor of 22%. Severe periodontitis showed a more pronounced impact with a 49% increase in the risk of hypertension.
Dr. Eva Aguilera — the lead author of the study — stated that there was a linear relationship between the two conditions and that, as the severity of the gum disease increased, as did the risk of hypertension.
Five studies included in the meta-analysis even saw blood pressure drop closer to normal levels after the gum treatment was completed. This means that maintaining oral health can reduce your risk of hypertension and other cardiovascular problems.
Other Risks of Gum Disease
If you neglect gum disease long enough then you could start losing teeth. As our previous article covered, this can lead to higher rates of cardiovascular disease. It’s also an aesthetic issue as you lose the chance at a naturally perfect smile and need to rely on dentures to fill the gap.
In addition to raising your blood pressure, gum disease may also cause atherosclerosis which is the narrowing and hardening of your arteries. This will exacerbate your hypertension since the blood, already at a higher pressure, will be further compressed by the thinning veins.
One study showed that a Porphyromonasgingivalis infection increases the rate at which beta-amyloid proteins are produced. These are a key part of the amyloid plaques that cause Alzheimer’s. Stay tuned for our future article on the ties between AD and oral health.
Risks of Hypertension
While the above risks of gum disease are nothing to scoff at, the dangers associated with hypertension are far more worrying. There are far too many to cover but listed below are some of the most threatening ones.
Hypertension puts you at a significantly increased risk of stroke. This is due to the fact that high pressures can lead to a rupture in one of your blood vessels. Hypertension can even lead to blood clots which will also put you at risk of a stroke.
Hypertension puts a lot of strain on your heart over the course of years or even decades since the higher blood pressure speeds up the wear and tear process. This can eventually lead to failure if left unchecked.
Vascular dementia is a condition in which insufficient blood flow to the brain leads to impaired thinking, memory, language, and problem-solving capabilities. The end result is remarkably similar to what we see in neurodegenerative diseases despite being cardiovascular in nature.
Preventing Gum Disease
We’ve already gone over the main ways that you can keep your gums safe from peridontitis quite a few times so we’re going to summarize with three bullet points. For a more in-depth overview, check out the other posts in our blogs.
- Brushing twice a day.
- Flossing to remove plaque along the gumline.
- Going for dental checkups twice a year to nip problems at the bud.
The CDC states that people should get around 20 minutes of moderate exercise every day to minimize their risk of hypertension. Going to the gym isn’t even necessary. Brisk walking or push-ups at the office is more than enough to keep you in shape.
The DASH eating plan is the best way to ensure that the food you eat doesn’t put you in the path of hypertension and all the cardiovascular risks that go with it. It covers all areas of proper nutrition such as buying the right groceries, cooking healthy, and what to do when eating out.
Smokers have higher blood pressures than nonsmokers, that’s a well-known fact. You shouldn’t under any circumstance start smoking unless you’re into hypertension. If you’re already smoking, read this CDC guide on quitting smoking.
As you can see, keeping your gums clean and well-maintained is essential to ensuring that your blood pressure remains within the normal range. Emphasizing good oral and cardiovascular health staves off countless conditions — making the effort more than worth it.
Don’t hesitate to call us at (312) 236-9325 if you have any questions about keeping your oral health in top shape — and protecting your body from cardiovascular problems in the process! Remember, healthy gums make for happier veins!