brush teeth oralIn a recent study, Korean researchers have found that poor oral hygiene habits may lead to increased incidence of hypertension. The study, published in the July 2015 issue of the Journal of Periodontology, suggests periodontitis and hypertension may be linked by way of inflammation and blood pressure elevation.

Titled, “Associations Among Oral Hygiene Behavior and Hypertension Prevalence and Control,” the study assessed data collected between 2008 and 2010 from 19,560 individuals in the Korea National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (KNHANES). Investigators evaluated the participants’ daily frequency of tooth brushing and their use of such secondary oral health products as dental floss, mouthwash, interdental brushes, and electric toothbrushes.

Hypertension (also known as high blood pressure) was diagnosed in 5921 study participants and identified by an individual’s use of antihypertensive medication or an average blood pressure greater than 140/90 mmHg. For individuals with and without periodontitis (the most severe form of gum disease), frequent tooth brushing was found to accompany a decreased prevalence of hypertension. Overall, study participants with poor oral hygiene habits were more likely to have higher hypertension frequency.

Researchers concluded that oral hygiene may be considered an independent risk factor for hypertension and that maintaining good periodontal health habits may prevent and control the condition.

“Although this subject may require further study, the association between hypertension and periodontitis is reminiscent of the link periodontal disease shares with other systemic conditions, including diabetes and heart disease,” says Dr Joan Otomo-Corgel, president of the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP), which publishes the Journal of Periodontology. “Literature continues to support the idea that what affects a person’s mouth can affect his or her body and vice versa. Taking care of your teeth and gums is as essential to a healthy lifestyle as diet and exercise.”

Periodontal disease (also known as gum disease) affects one of every two Americans age 30 and older. Caused by an inflammatory reaction to a bacterial infection below the gum line, periodontal disease can lead to swelling, irritation, receding gums, and tooth loss if left untreated. The AAP recommends regular flossing, brushing twice a day, and undergoing yearly comprehensive periodontal evaluations for the prevention of periodontal disease, which is treatable and often reversible with proper and timely care from a periodontist.

The American Heart Association notes that 80 million American adults have been diagnosed with hypertension. Known as “the silent killer,” hypertension can lead to stroke, damage to the heart and arteries, and kidney damage. “Patients with periodontal disease, hypertension, or any other chronic ailments should notify their periodontists and physicians of all of their conditions to ensure well-rounded care,” Dr Otomo-Corgel says. For more information about periodontal disease, visit perio.org.