A connection we might never make on our own is between our dental health and our heart health, but research suggests that these two or more intertwined than we might think. Recent studies have found that periodontal disease, often characterized by swollen and bleeding gums, and the loss of teeth as an adult are related to high blood pressure (hypertension). A new study has found that this connection is especially prevalent in postmenopausal women.
The current study examined the dental health and heart health of 36,692 postmenopausal women from the United States. They had annual checkups with the researchers between 1998 and 2015 at which time they were asked about any tooth loss or hypertension experienced in the year. The analysis of the data collected showed that the women who had lost all of their teeth during the course of the study were more likely to have been diagnosed with hypertension by the end.
Loss of Teeth Increases Hypertension Risk by 20 Percent
Compared to the participants who maintained their natural teeth for the duration of the study, those who lost their teeth showed a 20 percent higher risk of developing hypertension in between annual follow-ups. This connection was strongest between the younger women in the study and those who had a lower body mass index.
Interestingly, the researchers only noted a relationship between tooth loss and hypertension and did not find any connection between periodontal disease and hypertension, as has been noticed in other research.
“We are continuing to explore the underlying reasons for the association between tooth loss and hypertension. Future studies on the impact of tooth loss on dietary patterns, inflammation, and the communities of bacteria that live in the mouth may give us further insight into this association,” said Joshua Gordon, the study’s lead author.
The researchers behind the study do offer several hypotheses about the mechanisms underlying the connection, including dietary changes as a result of tooth loss, which could lead to an increased risk of hypertension. They urge the public to maintain proper dental hygiene and believe that improved dental hygiene may counteract this increased risk of hypertension in this population. Other strategies they recommend to lower one’s risk of high blood pressure include exercising, maintaining a healthy diet, and weight loss for those who are overweight.
“These findings suggest tooth loss may be an important factor in the development of hypertension,” said the study’s senior author, Jean Wactawski-Wende. “Further research may help us to determine the underlying mechanisms by which these two common diseases are associated.”
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