Many studies have linked gum disease with a host of health issues, but research shows yet another connection to hypertension. Combining a total of 81 studies from 26 countries, this research compiled the best available evidence to examine the odds of high blood pressure in patients with gum disease.
Published in Cardiovascular Research, a journal of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC), the study found that moderate to severe periodontitis was associated with a 22 percent raised risk of hypertension. Severe periodontitis was linked with a 49 percent higher risk.
Senior author Professor Francesco D’Aiuto of UCL Eastman Dental Institute, UK, said: “We observed a linear association – the more severe periodontitis is, the higher the probability of hypertension. The findings suggest that patients with gum disease should be informed of their risk and given advice on lifestyle changes to prevent high blood pressure such as exercise and a healthy diet.”
“Hypertension could be the driver of heart attack and stroke in patients with periodontitis. Previous research suggests a connection between periodontitis and hypertension and that dental treatment might improve blood pressure, but to date, the findings are inconclusive.”
Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, affects 30-45% of adults and is the leading global cause of premature death. Periodontitis affects more than 50% of the world’s population and has previously been linked to an increased risk of stroke and heart attack.
Researchers feel that a possible reason for the connection between the conditions is that the oral bacteria associated with gum disease leads to inflammation throughout the body, which affects blood vessel function. Genetic susceptibility could also be cause for the link along with risk factors such as smoking and obesity.
Professor D’Aiuto said: “In many countries throughout the world, oral health is not checked regularly, and gum disease remains untreated for many years. The hypothesis is that this situation of oral and systemic inflammation and response to bacteria accumulates on top of existing risk factors.”
Increased Risk of Death
The average rise in arterial blood pressure amounted to 4.5 mmHg higher systolic and 2 mmHg higher diastolic. “The differences are not negligible,” said Dr. Munoz Aguilera. “An average 5 mmHg blood pressure rise would be linked to a 25% increased risk of death from heart attack or stroke.”
It was noted in the conclusion of the study that gum disease could be a potential risk factor for hypertension, but the reverse could not be true. “Further research is needed to examine whether patients with high blood pressure have a raised likelihood of gum disease. It seems prudent to provide oral health advice to those with hypertension,” he said.
As hypertension is the main preventable cause of cardiovascular disease, finding this connection to gum disease could provide physicians with new possible treatments. More research to needed to explain the exact connection, but until then, patients diagnosed with hypertension could benefit from oral health advice.