Adults with periodontitis may be significantly more likely to have higher blood pressure compared to individuals who have healthy gums, according to new research from the UK.
Previous studies have found an association between hypertension and periodontitis, however, research confirming the details of this association is scarce.
“Patients with gum disease often present with elevated blood pressure, especially when there is active gingival inflammation, or bleeding of the gums,” lead study author Eva Muñoz Aguilera said.
“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.”
The study—published in Hypertension—included 250 adults with generalised, 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.
All participants underwent comprehensive periodontal examinations. In addition, blood pressure assessments were measured three times for each participant to ensure accuracy. Fasting blood samples were also collected and analysed for high levels of white blood cells and high sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP), as both are markers of increased inflammation in the body.
The researchers found that a diagnosis of gum disease was associated with higher odds of hypertension, independent of common cardiovascular risk factors. Individuals with gum disease were twice as likely to have high systolic blood pressure values compared to people with healthy gums.
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.
Nearly 50 per cent of participants with gum disease and 42 per cent of the control group had blood pressure values for a diagnosis of hypertension.
“This evidence indicates that periodontal bacteria cause damage to the gums and also triggers inflammatory responses that can impact the development of systemic diseases including hypertension,” corresponding author Professor Francesco D’Aiuto said.