Adults with periodontitis, a severe gum infection, may be significantly more likely to have higher blood pressure (BP) compared to individuals who had healthy gums, a new study revealed. The findings, published in the journal Hypertension, indicate that diagnosis of gum disease was associated with higher odds of hypertension, independent of common cardiovascular risk factors.
"Patients with gum disease often present with elevated blood pressure, especially when there is active gingival inflammation, or bleeding of the gums," said lead author Eva MuAoz Aguilera from the University College London in the UK.
"Elevated blood pressure is usually asymptomatic, and many individuals may be unaware that they are at increased risk of cardiovascular complications. We aimed to investigate the association between severe periodontitis and high blood pressure in healthy adults without a confirmed diagnosis of hypertension," Aguilera added.
Periodontitis is an infection of the gum tissues that hold teeth in place that can lead to progressive inflammation, bone or tooth loss.
For the study, the team included 250 adults with generalized, severe periodontitis and a control group of 250 adults who did not have severe gum disease, all of whom were otherwise healthy and had no other chronic health conditions.
The median age of the participants was 35 years, and 52.6 per cent were female. All participants underwent comprehensive periodontal examinations including detailed measures of gum disease severity, such as full-mouth dental plaque, bleeding of the gums and the depth of the infected gum pockets.
Blood pressure assessments were measured three times for each participant to ensure accuracy.
Individuals with gum disease were twice as likely to have high systolic blood pressure compared to people with healthy gums, the researchers said.
The presence of active gum inflammation (identified by bleeding gums) was associated with higher systolic blood pressure, they added.
Participants with periodontitis exhibited increased glucose, LDL ("bad" cholesterol), hsCRP and white blood cell levels, and lower HDL ("good" cholesterol) levels compared to those in the control group.