Oral health is closely linked to cardiovascular health: as Dr. Mª José Jiménez, specialist in periodontics and implantology, the patients with gum problems also have a 25% to 30% higher risk of coronary accidents. Thus, the pEriodontitis in adulthood – a serious gum infection – means a higher chance of suffering from high blood pressure, according to a new study published in the journal Hypertension.
Periodontitis occurs when the gum tissues that hold teeth in place become infected, causing swelling, bleeding, and deterioration that can lead toloss of teeth or jaw bone. Through medical treatment, systemic markers of inflammation can be reduced while improving the function of the endothelium, the thin membrane that lines the arterial and heart walls.
“Patients with gum disease, especially those with active or bleeding gingivitis, frequently also have high blood pressure,” confirms Dr. Eva Muñoz Aguilera, researcher at the Eastman UCL Dental Institute in London (United Kingdom). “The hypertension is frequently asymptomatic, and many patients may not even suspect that they are at increased risk of cardiovascular complications ”. Bleeding from the gums, they postulated, could be a tool to locate cases.
In collaboration with the International University of Catalonia in Barcelona, they were analyzed for the study to 250 patients with generalized and severe periodontitis, that is, with at least 50% of teeth with gum infection present, that they did not suffer any other notable or chronic disease. An additional 250 who were in good oral health were then recruited to serve as a control group. The proportion of women and men was equivalent, with a median age of 35 years.
All participants underwent comprehensive periodontal examinations, including detailed analyzes of the severity of gingivitis in dental plaque, gum blood, and the depth of infection in the spaces between the gums and teeth. In parallel, three measurements of the patient’s blood pressure were taken to ensure accuracy. Finally, fasting blood samples were taken to locate high levels of white blood cells and high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP), both markers of inflammation in the body.
The conclusion was that a diagnosis of periodontitis it was associated with increased risks of hypertension, independent of other common cardiac risk factors. With bleeding gums, individuals were twice as likely to have values of high systolic pressure higher than 140 mm Hg compared to healthy ones, 14% vs 7%, and a higher systolic pressure in general. In addition, patients with gum problems had higher levels of glucose, LDL or ‘bad cholesterol’, more hsCRP and white blood cells, and less HDL or ‘good cholesterol’.
Definitely, about half of the people with periodontitis had hypertension, defined as a blood pressure of 130/80 mmHg, by 42% in the control group. “This shows that periodontal bacteria cause damage to the gums, but also trigger inflammatory responses that can have an impact on the development of systemic diseases, including hypertension,” explains another of the researchers, Dr. Francesco D’Aiuto, head of the central london periodontology unit.
“This means that the link between gum infection and high blood pressure would occur long before the patient develops hypertension“He continues. “Our study also confirms that a worryingly large number of people are unaware of having a possible diagnosis of hypertension.” In this sense, the specialist is committed to referring cases of periodontitis from dental clinics to Primary Care to try to curb this disease suffered by more than 15 million people in Spain.
“Oral strategies such as brushing teeth twice a day They have been shown to be very effective in preventing and controlling the most common dental problems, and our studies show that they can also be an affordable but powerful way to keep hypertension at bay, ”concludes D’Aiuto. In short, healthy guidelines that are added to the recommendation to exercise and maintain a heart-healthy diet.