Oral Hygiene and High Blood Pressure – is there a connection?

There are a great number of factors which can lead to the development of High Blood Pressure (HBP)HBP image

Amongst the most commonly cited factors (assuming that the condition in not due to hereditary or genetic factors) are:

  • Poor Diet
  • Use of Too Much Salt in the Diet
  • Lack of Regular Activity and Exercise
  • Being Overweight
  • Being under Constant Stress
  • Smoking and Excessive Consumption of Alcohol
  • Process of Ageing
  • Chronic Kidney Disease
  • Thyroid and Adrenal Disorders

But there is another possible cause of HBP which is very likely overlooked by most Doctors, and could account for why people who are doing all the right things to naturally manage their blood pressure, and who may also be on prescription medications to assist in this process, are still dealing with stubbornly high blood pressure readings.

This factor which does not appear on the radar of Doctors treating patients with HBP has actually become the focus of increasing research. And this is leading to the conclusions that:

Poor Oral Health may very well be having an adverse effect on people dealing with Hypertension. 

 

Namely, Periodontal Disease, which is a condition caused by inflammation and infection of the gums and also by damage to the teeth, can raise blood pressure itself, and worse, interfere in the management of healthy blood pressure levels. 

What is the Link between Dental Hygiene and High Blood Pressure?

This is still not conclusive but there is a credible school of thought amongst some doctors (and dentists) that the chronic infection caused by untreated Periodontal Disease could end up being released into the blood stream, and ultimately end up in the kidneys, where the poison leads to increased blood pressure as the kidneys attempt to eliminate the toxins.

One culprit behind this infection can be found in old root-canals which over time have become infected.  Another possible source of hidden infection is wisdom teeth sockets which have not been properly cleaned out during the original removal procedure.

So it is becoming clearer that gum disease can be a factor in failing to control high blood pressure.


Study Suggests that Physicians should pay attention to Oral Health

There are two separate conclusions to be drawn from different studies which have attempted to gain an understanding of the relationship between Oral Health and Hypertension.  And these can be summed up in the following way:oral hygiene meme


CONCLUSION 1  Good oral health is likely to make the control of blood pressure more successful and effective for people who are on prescription medication treatment for high blood pressure

CONCLUSION 2  Oral Health should be further studied from the point of view of it being an independent risk factor for developing Hypertension in the first place.


The first aspect of this was reflected in a Study published in the Journal Hypertension which involved an examination of the medical and dental records of a group of 3,600 people who were being treated for HBP.

The results of this analysis concluded that those people in the study who had healthier teeth and gums tended to have lower BP readings, and actually responded better to the antihypertensive medications they were on, compared to those people who had gum disease or periodontitis – (periodontal disease).  In fact they found that the latter group were 20% less likely to achieve healthy BP levels than the patients with good oral health.

According to Dr. David Pietropaoli of the University of L’Aquila (Italy) and lead investigator in this study:

“Physicians should pay close attention to patients’ oral health, particularly those receiving treatment for hypertension, and urge those with signs of periodontal disease to seek dental care.”

and

“Likewise, dental health professionals should be aware that oral health is indispensable to overall physiological health, including cardiovascular status.”


Re CONCLUSION 2, a study conducted by Korea National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (KNHANES – for short)  looked in part at the oral health habits of 19,000 survey participants.

The study results indicated that frequent tooth brushing, accompanied by other oral hygiene practices, such as flossing and use of water pik and mouthwash, was reflected in a decreased occurrence of high blood pressure.

Overall it appeared that the individuals in the study who demonstrated poor oral hygiene habits were also more likely to present with high blood pressure.

Researchers took away from this study the determination that oral hygiene should be examined as an independent risk factor for HBP and recommended that further research be conducted to pinpoint exactly what the connection is between oral health and certain disease processes.




How to promote optimal oral hygiene

It is of course true that practicing optimal oral hygiene habits is important for anyone, but now we can see that for those people who are coping with HBP, and are on medications, it is doubly important to pay attention to oral health.  So here’s a few tips on how to achieve this:

  1. Never skimp on Dental Hygiene visits – No matter how well we think we are doing with our home oral hygiene practices, it is still essential to go at least once (and preferably twice) a year to get a professional tooth and gum cleaning.  Not only can bad oral care habits be corrected, but your Dental Hygienist has the tools to do a thorough exam of gum and tooth health through the use of X-rays and probing tools to measure the gaps between gums and teeth and determine how much gum recession is going on.  Gum recession becomes an increasingly likely factor as we grow older.
  2. Use an Electric toothbrush – Most dentists will recommend an electric toothbrush over the old-fashioned manual brush these days for several electric toothbrushreasons.  First and foremost due to the vibrating speed of the head of the device, the electric toothbrush can clean your teeth much more thoroughly. It is impossible to duplicate the action of the spinning head using a manual brush – unless you have superpowers!
    Also most electric toothbrushes have a built in timer to help ensure you spend the proper amount of time brushing in each dental quadrant of your mouth (upper/lower left and upper/lower right sides).  And they stop you from brushing too hard and thereby damaging your gums.  The spinning head does the brushing – you just guide it around the gum contours.
  3. Take Advantage of the accessories –  In addition to brushing it’s also important to floss (at least once a day) and use the other accessories which help to maintain optimal oral health.  Mouthwash – preferably a non-alcoholic variety – also plays a role in keeping the harmful bacteria in check which can otherwise eventually lead to gum disease.

*Toothpaste Alternatives – If you are not a fan of using one of the commercially available brands of toothpaste, there are some natural substances which can be substituted instead.  One option is to use a mixture of baking soda combined with a few drops of peppermint essential oil and stevia.  Or you can try using Coconut oil which is both an anti-fungal and anti-bacterial.  Alternatively, you can go with a Herbal Tooth Powder formula which not only cleans the teeth well, but also helps to keep infection and inflammation of the gums at bay.


Final Thoughts

Undoubtedly, poor dental hygiene is probably not top of mind for many, including medical professionals, when the possible causes of high blood pressure are being investigated.  However, as can be seen from the information presented in this post, this is indeed a link which merits consideration, and the hope is that more studies in this area will lead to further insights into how poor oral hygiene and high blood pressure are connected.

For now I will leave you with this last piece of advice from Dr. David Pietropaoli:

“Patients with high blood pressure and the clinicians who care for them should be aware that good oral health may be just as important in controlling the condition as are several lifestyle interventions known to help control blood pressure, such as a low-salt diet, regular exercise and weight control.”

Now, it’s high time for me to go and take my electric toothbrush for a spin!  Here’s to best oral health practices!

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