People suffering from periodontitis may be twice as likely to have higher blood pressure than those with healthy gums, according to a new study.
A team of researchers set out to investigate the link between hypertension, or high blood pressure, and periodontitis, which is a severe infection of the gum tissues that can lead to progressive inflammation, bone or tooth loss.
Their study involved 250 adults with severe periodontitis and a control group of 250 adults who did not have severe gum disease, and they underwent dental exams and blood pressure assessments.
The researchers found that a diagnosis of gum disease was associated with higher odds of hypertension, and those with gum disease were twice as likely to have high systolic blood pressure values compared to people with healthy gums, with sufferers having a 14 per cent risk compared to non-sufferers at seven per cent.
The team also found that the presence of active gum inflammation, which is identified by bleeding gums, was associated with higher systolic blood pressure, while those with periodontitis had increased levels of glucose and LDL, known as "bad" cholesterol, and lower levels of HDL, "good" cholesterol, than the control participants.
Overall, nearly 50 per cent of participants with gum disease and 42 per cent of the control group had blood pressure values for a diagnosis of hypertension.
"This evidence indicates that periodontal bacteria cause damage to the gums and also triggers inflammatory responses that can impact the development of systemic diseases including hypertension," said corresponding author Francesco D'Aiuto, professor of periodontology and head of the periodontology unit at the UCL Eastman Dental Institute. "This would mean that the link between gum disease and elevated blood pressure occurs well before a patient develops high blood pressure. Our study also confirms that a worryingly high number of individuals are unaware of a possible diagnosis of hypertension."
The findings were published in Hypertension, an American Heart Association journal.