Is there a connection between oral health and high blood pressure? This is the focus of many studies and there does seem to be a link. Although gum disease doesn’t cause heart problems, if you have cardiovascular issues, you should definitely pay attention to your oral health. There is quite a bit of research that connects poor oral hygiene to heart disease, including high blood pressure.
At Sninski & Schmitt Family Dentistry, we take a holistic view of our patients. This means that we make it part of caring for our patients to know aspects of your overall health, which allows us to make better diagnoses regarding your oral health. In this article, we explain some of the issues regarding oral health and high blood pressure and how they may be related.
What is Hypertension?
Hypertension refers to high blood pressure. You have high blood pressure when the pressure in your blood vessels is too high, e.g.140/90 mmHg or higher. High blood pressure is common but can be very serious if it isn’t treated. Hypertension may not exhibit symptoms, so it is important to get your blood pressure checked every so often.
Blood pressure is written as two numbers. The first number (systolic) represents the pressure in blood vessels when the heart contracts or beats. The second number (diastolic) represents the pressure in the vessels when the heart rests between beats.
Risk Factors of High Blood Pressure
Here are some of the things that increase the risk of having high blood pressure:
- Being overweight or obese
- Not physically active
- High-salt diet
- Drinking too much alcohol
Changing lifestyle choices can help lower blood pressure such as eating a healthier diet, quitting tobacco, and being more active. However, even with making those changes, some people may need to take medication to lower blood pressure.
High Blood Pressure Can Cause Serious Health Issues
If you have high blood pressure and don’t have it diagnosed properly and, therefore, don’t do anything to lower it, you can experience serious health issues such as:
- Heart failure
- Coronary heart disease
- Kidney disease
- Peripheral artery disease
- Hypertensive retinopathy
- Erectile dysfunction
Medication for High Blood Pressure
Blood pressure medications, called antihypertensives, are medicines that lower your blood pressure in a variety of ways. Some medications make your blood vessels wider so blood gets through more easily. Other medicines remove extra fluids from your blood or block natural hormones that your body makes that raise blood pressure. Sometimes, you need to take more than one type of medication to bring your pressure numbers down. A physician may use trial and error in adding medications or increasing dosages in order to get just the right combination.
Blood Pressure Medicine Is Less Effective for Patients With Gum Disease
It is more difficult for people with gum disease to lower their blood pressure with medication as compared to patients with good oral health, according to studies by the American Heart Association. Researchers used the medical and dental records of more than 3600 people with high blood pressure and found that those people who had periodontal disease were twenty percent more likely to be hypertensive. At the same time, people with healthy gums responded better to antihypertensive medications.
What Is Periodontitis?
Periodontitis is the most severe gum disease. Periodontal disease is a chronic inflammatory disorder of the tissues surrounding the teeth. Small spaces between the teeth and gums trap debris and spread bacteria below the gum line, causing gum tissue and bones to deteriorate to the point that teeth can no longer be held in place.
Some of the signs and symptoms of periodontitis are:
- Small pockets around the teeth
- Swollen, bleeding, or inflamed gums that are sore
- Bad taste in mouth
- Continuous bad breath
- Loose teeth
- Losing teeth
- Tenderness or pain when eating
- Pus on gums
- Teeth look longer due to receding gums
Mild cases of gum disease can be reversed with deep-cleaning treatments and mouth rinses. Antibiotics can help treat more serious cases. However, sometimes dental surgery is needed. Prevention by having a proper oral hygiene regimen is the best solution.
Why Is There a Connection Between Your Mouth and Your Heart and Blood Pressure?
Bacteria from gum infections travel to the rest of your body through blood vessels and damage the arteries, heart, brain, liver, and other organs in the process. This bacteria moving in the blood causes inflammation and can result in higher blood pressure values.
In addition to bacteria, another contributor to both gum disease and heart disease is a low amount of vitamin K2. Vitamin K is important in the formation and maintenance of teeth and healthy bones. When your vitamin K is low, you may experience bleeding problems because the blood takes longer to clot. Studies have shown that there is a strong association between vitamin K2 deficiency and arterial stiffness, vascular and vascular calcification, heart failure and cardiovascular mortality.
Take Care of Your Mouth and Protect Your Heart
You can support your cardiovascular health by taking care of your mouth. Prevention of gum disease is better than a cure. Be sure to brush your teeth twice a day and floss at least once a day to remove particles that have built up. Proper brushing is crucial in getting the full benefit to your oral health. Use a toothpaste with fluoride and a soft-bristled toothbrush. Also, rinsing your mouth with mouthwash is helpful in removing the small bits of food that remain after flossing and brushing, as well as in preventing bad breath.
Have a Healthy Lifestyle
Replacing unhealthy habits with healthier ones goes a long way in maintaining good oral health and good cardiovascular health.
Eat a Diet with Vitamins and Minerals
Sugar is a nemesis of good oral health because it can cause bacteria to grow and thrive in your mouth. Always clean your teeth properly after consuming foods loaded with sugar.
There are certain foods that infuse your body with healthy microbes helping guard your teeth against decay.
Foods rich in probiotics:
- Fermented olives
- Sour pickles
- Sauerkraut or kimchi
- Sourdough bread
Foods that contain high levels of vitamin K2 help to strengthen your teeth, gums, and cardiovascular system. Here are a few:
- Grass-fed dairy
- Kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir and other fermented foods
- Goose and chicken liver
Additionally, leafy greens, apples, carrots, celery, and almonds have an abundance of minerals, fiber, and vitamins that help to protect your teeth.
Drink Less Alcohol and Don’t Smoke
Smoking and drinking alcohol make your mouth dry which can cause bad bacteria to set up residence. This increases the risk of developing gum disease and oral cancer.
Avoid Using Utensils and Toothbrushes that Others with Gum Infections Have Used
Infections can spread to others through saliva. It’s important to avoid using anything that has been in the mouth of someone who has an infection in their mouth.
Contact Sninski & Schmitt Family Dentistry
Our professional dental team at Sninski & Schmitt Family Dentistry is experienced in diagnosing and treating gum disease. Call us at our Holly Springs dentist office at (919) 600-6262 and our Cary, NC dentist office at (919) 467-2203 or fill out our contact form to schedule an appointment.