You know the importance of brushing and flossing when promoting good oral health, but did you know that it can also affect your general health? In fact, gum disease, or periodontitis, not only puts your teeth at risk, but it also puts your overall health at risk with an increase in blood pressure or hypertension. But what is the connection between hypertension and periodontal disease? At Soundview Family Dental, we know the importance of a good oral hygiene routine when it comes to your oral health and your overall health. Our caring team helps you take a closer look at the connection between your bleeding gums and high blood pressure.
What is high blood pressure?
When your heart pumps blood through your body, it travels through the arteries. Blood pressure measures the pressure your blood puts on the walls of the arteries.
We measure blood pressure using two numbers: systolic and diastolic. Systolic is the higher number and measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats. The diastolic pressure measures the pressure when your heart rests. Normal blood pressure reads as less than 120/80mmHg. During the day, depending on your activities, it is normal for your blood pressure to rise and fall.
High blood pressure, or hypertension, occurs when your blood pressure consistently measures high throughout the day. So, what is considered high blood pressure? Some physicians still follow the guidelines from the Seventh Report of the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure released in 2003 of 140/90mmHg or higher. However, in 2017, the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association for the Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Management of High Blood Pressure changed the guidelines to anything over 130/80mmHg.
Unfortunately, high blood pressure most often comes with no symptoms, even when it reaches dangerously high levels. Some people may experience headaches, shortness of breath, or nosebleeds, but these are often not specific enough to raise concern. The only way to truly know your blood pressure levels is through regular blood pressure readings. When untreated, hypertension can increase your risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. Hypertension affects nearly half of all adults in the United States, with hypertension being the primary or contributing cause of more than half a million American deaths in 2019.
What is periodontal disease?
Periodontal disease or gum disease occurs when bacteria remain on the teeth for too long, forming plaque and eventually tartar, or calculus. When calculus forms, it works its way between the gum line and the tooth and can only be removed by a dental professional. This causes infection and inflammation of the gums and, if untreated, can damage the tooth and the jaw. Early gum disease, called gingivitis, causes gum swelling and redness. You may also experience bleeding when brushing your teeth. If you do not address this early stage, gum disease will progress to periodontitis, which will cause the gums to pull away from the tooth, exposing the tooth root and increasing the risk of tooth loss and bone loss.
The Centers for Disease Control reports that over 47% of American adults over the age of 30 have some form of periodontal disease, and that number increases to over 70% in adults over 65.
Is there a connection between hypertension and periodontal disease?
Unfortunately, numerous studies have shown connections between hypertension and periodontal disease, though more studies are necessary to explain the connections further. Like the one published in Cardiovascular Research in 2020, current studies show a linear connection between periodontal disease and hypertension. People with moderate gum disease were 22% more likely to have high blood pressure, while those with severe gum disease were 49% more likely.
Another study shows that periodontal disease can also hinder hypertension treatments. This study found that adults with gum disease had mean systolic BP 2.3-3mmHg higher than those with good oral hygiene. In addition, periodontitis was associated with unsuccessful antihypertensive treatments, even with adjustments.
More studies are necessary to look deeper into this connection and test the impact on periodontal therapy and the possible reduction in blood pressure and cardiovascular risk.
Treatment and prevention of periodontal disease
The best course of treatment and prevention of periodontal disease is a good oral hygiene routine that includes regular brushing, flossing, dental cleanings, and routine dental exams. In cases of severe periodontitis, more extensive treatment may be necessary. These treatments can include:
- Scaling and Root Planing
- LANAP Laser-assisted Regeneration Therapy
- Pocket Reduction
- Gum Grafts
Frequently Asked Questions
In addition to the information listed above, we wanted to answer some frequently asked questions we receive from our patients.
1. Can bad teeth cause high blood pressure?
Bad teeth are often due to gum disease, infection, dental decay, and inflammation. Because these are all connected, poor oral health, in general, can contribute to high blood pressure.
2. Can a toothache make your blood pressure go up?
In general, any pain can increase your blood pressure because pain increases sympathetic activity. In the case of a toothache, the inflammation and infection from the tooth and the pain can contribute to increased blood pressure.
3. When is your blood pressure too high for dental treatment?
You may wonder why your dentist checks your blood pressure before dental treatments. While the American Dental Association first recommended this in 1974, the recommendations increased in 2006. According to guidelines, patients with blood pressure higher than 160/100 should be retested within a short period. If the blood pressure does not go down and you have not received prior clearance from your physician, you will likely have to wait for your dental treatment and consult with your physician.
Let us help you maintain a healthy smile
It is important to address the early signs of periodontal disease to save your teeth and help you maintain a healthy heart. At Soundview Family Dental, our team works with you to achieve a beautiful, healthy smile. Our caring staff work with you to address any gum disease concerns, including treatments and prevention techniques. Our goal is to help you achieve good oral and overall health and we will work with you to achieve that goal.
To learn more about high blood pressure, periodontal disease, and your treatment options, visit us online or call the office at (425) 563-6360 to schedule an appointment and let our team take care of your concerns.