Could your mouth be the secret to maintaining a healthy blood pressure level?
Research presented last month at the annual meeting of the American Heart association suggests that periodontal (gum) disease treatment alone may be enough to lower blood pressure in patients prone to heart disease.
The researchers divided 107 Chinese adults who had both prehypertension and moderate to severe gum disease into two groups. One group got four weeks of basic dental hygiene. The other had four weeks of intensive periodontal treatment: scaling, root planing, antibiotics, and extractions as needed.
At one month after treatment, the perio group showed significantly lower systolic blood pressure. This is the upper number, which measures the maximum pressure exerted on the arteries. The lower number represents diastolic blood pressure, or the minimum pressure on the arteries.
After six months, the perio group’s systolic pressure was 13 points lower than the control group’s. Diastolic pressure was almost 10 points lower.
As the director of the study, Dr. Jun Tao, noted,
The present study demonstrates for the first time that intensive periodontal intervention alone can reduce blood pressure levels, inhibit inflammation, and improve endothelial function.
While a recent Cochrane Review found that the total body of research on improving heart health through improving periodontal health remains inconclusive, studies like this lend more weight to the heart-gums connection.
We also know that chronic inflammation is involved in both heart and gum disease, and that the same harmful bacteria are present in both. Those bacteria fuel the inflammation that causes gum tissue to get red and puffy. The biological processes that regulate this inflammation don’t limit their effects to the gums.
As the infection of your gums worsens, the bacteria can get into your bloodstream and move through your body. The presence of these bacteria elsewhere causes even more inflammation.
All this is bad for your heart on many levels. For example, chronic inflammation is involved in atherosclerosis, also known as hardening of the arteries. The pathogenic oral bacteria that cause periodontal disease have been found in the fatty plaques associated with this condition. Atherosclerosis makes it more difficult for blood to flow through your body and can lead to a heart attack or stroke.
Fewer of these bacteria are found in the heart in individuals who do not have periodontal gum disease.
For more on the mouth-heart link, check out our archives.
We will be taking a break from blogging for the holidays. We’ll see you back here in January. All of us here at Dr. Rehme’s office hope you have a wonderful, joy-filled holiday season and a happy, healthy start to the new year!