Gum disease 'doubles the risk of having high blood pressure'

Adults who suffer from gum disease are TWICE as likely to have high blood pressure, study warns

  • Researchers at UCL looked at the link between gum disease and blood pressure 
  • Found people with periodontitis are 2.3 times more likely to have hypertension 
  • In study, 14% of people with periodontitis had a medically high blood pressure
  • This figure is slashed in half for people with good oral health. study shows 

People with severe gum disease are twice as likely to have high blood pressure, according to a new study.

A study of 250 people with periodontitis — severe gum disease — found people with the condition are 2.3 times more likely to have a systolic blood pressure higher than 140 mm Hg, the medical threshold for hypertension. 

Periodontitis is an infection of the gums that often leads to bleeding and can result in tooth or bone loss. 

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Periodontitis is an infection of the gums that often leads to bleeding and can result in tooth or bone loss. Sufferers are up to 2.3 times more likely to have high blood pressure (stock)

Researchers from University College London studied both systolic and diastolic blood pressure — how much force the blood is under when the heart contracts and relaxes, respectively. 

Both metrics are measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg) and people with gum disease have, on average, a 3.36 mm Hg higher systolic pressure. 

Their diastolic blood pressure is also elevated by 2.16 mm Hg compared to people with impeccable dental health. 

Among orally healthy people only seven per cent of individuals had a systolic blood pressure above 140 mm Hg.  

This figure doubles to 14 per cent among people with gum disease. 

SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes Covid-19, infects saliva and cells in the mouth, a new study shows.

US researchers have found evidence that salivary glands are one area in the mouth where the deadly virus infects our cells. 

SARS-CoV-2 infection in the mouth accounts for the oral symptoms people with Covid-19 have been experiencing, such as taste loss, dry mouth and blistering, they believe. 

The mouth may also play a role in transmitting SARS-CoV-2 to the lungs or digestive system via saliva laden with virus from infected oral cells, the experts think.

Prior evidence has already suggested Covid-19 spreads via mouth and nose secretions, including saliva, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). 

Study lead author Dr Eva Muñoz Aguilera, senior researcher at UCL Eastman Dental Institute in London, said: ‘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 cardiovascular complications.

‘We aimed to investigate the association between severe periodontitis and high blood pressure in healthy adults without a confirmed diagnosis of hypertension.’ 

All the study participants underwent comprehensive periodontal examinations including detailed measures of gum disease severity, such as full-mouth dental plaque, bleeding of the gums and the depth of the infected gum pockets.

Blood pressure was measured and blood samples were analysed for levels of white blood cells and high sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP), both known markers of increased inflammation in the body. 

Additional information such as a genetic history of cardiovascular disease, age, BMI, gender, ethnicity, smoking and physical activity levels were taken into account in the analysis.

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

Professor Francesco D’Aiuto, head of the periodontology unit at the UCL Eastman Dental Institute and co-author of the study, said: ‘This evidence indicates that periodontal bacteria cause damage to the gums and also triggers inflammatory responses that can impact the development of systemic diseases including hypertension.

‘This would mean that the link between gum disease and elevated blood pressure occurs well before a patient develops high blood pressure. 

‘Our study also confirms that a worryingly high number of individuals are unaware of a possible diagnosis of hypertension.’

He adds that looking for signs of gum disease could be a useful way of detecting high blood pressure earlier than predicted. 

‘Oral health strategies such as brushing teeth twice daily are proven to be very effective in managing and preventing the most common oral conditions, and our study’s results indicate they can also be a powerful and affordable tool to help prevent hypertension,’ he says. 

The full findings are published in the journal Hypertension.  

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