- May 7, 2019
May is National Dental Care Month. It’s a great time to remind ourselves just how important it is to take care of our teeth, gums, tongue and mouth by adopting healthy habits. Since childhood, most of us have heard that to keep a healthy smile we need to brush and floss twice a day, visit the dentist bi-annually and try not to eat too much sugar. Those lessons hold true no matter your age. Did you know that good oral health is especially important for people with high blood pressure? In fact, studies have shown the impact between gingivitis and high blood pressure!
According to a report from the University of L’Aquila in Italy published in the American Heart Associations’ Hypertension journal in October 2018, gum health impacts treatment for high blood pressure. Researchers from the university reviewed the medical and dental records of more than 3,600 patients who suffer from high blood pressure. They compared those in the group with healthy gums versus those with gum disease (a condition known as periodontis). The analysis revealed that those with healthy gums responded better to blood pressure-lowering medication, and as a result had lower blood pressure. In the study, the blood pressure of people with gum disease was 20 percent less likely to fall in the healthy range.
While the study did not determine the reason behind the cause and effect, it does offer two-fold recommendations for healthcare providers:
- Dentists who treat patients with periodontis can raise awareness about the link between the disease and high blood pressure. Patients can choose to consult their primary care physicians and monitor blood pressure levels.
- Primary care physicians who treat patients with high blood pressure may do an assessment of oral health. From this assessment they can explain the impact between gingivitis and high blood pressure. Patients may choose to consult with their dentists for more information.
Causes of Periodontis
Periodontis is caused by plaque, a colorless sticky film that builds up on teeth and contains millions of bacteria. If not removed with daily brushing and flossing, plaque can harden into tartar. Plaque, tartar and bacteria can combine to cause gingivitis, which leads to red, tender, swollen gums that bleed easily. Prolonged gingivitis without treatment can lead to more severe effects of gum disease for which there is generally not a permanent cure.
Signs of gum disease without obvious symptoms is possible. That’s why it is so important to schedule regular check-ups with your dentist who is trained to assess your oral health.