While high blood pressure is common, we still don’t fully understand what causes it. We do know that it is linked to inflammation and the immune system. In parallel, for about a century, there’s been evidence that the health of our teeth – in particular, the gums – may be somehow linked to the body’s general health.
When someone doesn’t brush or floss their teeth properly, they may develop gingivitis – red and swollen gums that can bleed when you brush them. Left untreated, it progresses to a more serious form of gum disease called periodontitis – where bacteria collect between the teeth and the gums, causing painful abscesses, inflammation and loosening of the teeth. Periodontitis is relatively common, and we already know that it is linked to a higher risk of heart disease. But is it also associated with high blood pressure?
In a recent review of the evidence, researchers found about 80 studies that looked at the question of whether high blood pressure was more common in people with gum disease. The studies investigated things like the severity of periodontitis and changes in blood pressure over time.
They found that people who had moderate to severe gum disease were 20 per cent more likely to have high blood pressure, compared to healthy patients. The more severe the periodontitis, the greater the risk of having high blood pressure.
The authors say that this research suggests periodontitis could be a ‘modifiable risk factor’ for high blood pressure, which means it’s something you can change to reduce your risk. Brushing regularly and flossing are the main ways of reducing your risk of gum disease.