New research finds that gum disease may make an otherwise healthy person significantly more likely to develop high blood pressure. Recent research published in the March 2021 American Heart Association Hypertension journal shows that periodontitis, gum disease, is linked to higher blood pressure in otherwise healthy individuals.
According to the study, researchers studied 250 otherwise healthy adults with severe periodontitis and 250 healthy adults without the gum disease. Their median age was 35, meaning half were older, half younger.
Participants with gum disease were twice as likely to have high systolic blood pressure (140 mm Hg or more), than those with healthy gums (14% and 7%, respectively), according to the findings. The systolic level — top number in a blood pressure reading — is how much pressure your blood is exerting on your blood vessels as it moves through the body.
While only an association and not a cause-and-effect link was established, the findings suggest that about 50% of adults could have undetected high blood pressure due to gum disease — a tissue infection that can also lead to inflammation and bone or tooth loss.
Researchers said preventing and treating gum disease may be a cost-effective way to reduce systemic inflammation and improve function of the endothelium, the thin lining inside the heart and blood vessels. Because high blood pressure often has no outward symptoms, many individuals may be unaware that they are at increased risk for heart-related problems.
People with moderate and severe gum infection are more likely to have increased blood pressure. Oral health strategies such as brushing teeth twice daily and flossing daily are proven to be very effective in managing and preventing the most common oral conditions such as periodontitis. The study’s results indicate they can also be a powerful and affordable tool to help prevent high blood pressure from moderate and severe gum disease.