With a staggering 75 million Americans estimated to have high blood pressure, a new study in the publication Hypertension is calling on doctors and dentists to pay close attention to patients with high blood pressure and periodontitis. The study found that of 3,600 patients with high blood pressure, those who had healthier gums also had lower blood pressure numbers than their counterparts with periodontal disease.
"The study shows that there is a strong connection between the body and the mouth," says Dr. Gary Lederman, a dentist from Bellmore, New York. "So, when it comes to total-body health, oral health is paramount."
In the study, patients who had periodontal disease also had a higher systolic blood pressure reading – an average of 3mmHG higher than those with less severe periodontitis and those without periodontitis.
"Though the difference in numbers may seem insignificant, according to the study, 3mmHG is equivalent to eliminating a teaspoon of salt from your diet per day," Lederman says. "And if the patient had untreated high blood pressure, those numbers were even higher – 7mmHG, which is more than double."
Lederman says this link should not be taken lightly: Patients with periodontal disease should be sure to monitor their blood pressure regularly, and those with high blood pressure should keep a close eye on their oral health.
"We don’t know what the link is, but it is thought to be the inflammation from the periodontal disease, which is a common culprit for a lot of serious illnesses and diseases," Lederman says. "What we do know is that poor oral health can literally kill you, so keeping the health of your mouth a priority could save your life."