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What Your Teeth and Gums Say About Your Health

Did you know that poor dental health is linked to other serious health risks? Your Bedford dentist can be your first line of defense not just for your teeth, but for your overall health as well. Come on in and say “aaaahhhh” and there is a lot that your dentist can learn about you.

For instance, if you have tooth decay and sore, bleeding gums, you might also be struggling with high blood pressure. A new study has explored the link between healthy gums and a healthy heart, finding that adults with hypertension had increasingly high blood pressure as the health of their teeth and gums declined.

Even when treated with medication, increased hypertension continues to trend up as oral health deteriorates. Compared to hypertensive patients who had no signs of periodontal disease, those with inflamed gums were 20 percent less likely to have blood pressure within healthy limits even when being treated with medication.

Can Gum Disease Cause High Blood Pressure?

It’s estimated that one-third of adults in the U.S. have high blood pressure, putting them at greater risk of heart attacks and strokes. Hypertension is an important factor in more than 1,000 deaths per day in the U.S., yet only half of those with this condition are able to manage their blood pressure with a combination of medication, diet, and exercise.

A large body of research links gum disease with increased rates of heart, blood vessel, and kidney diseases, all organs affected by high blood pressure. This new study takes it further by detailing how poor dental health can upend efforts to manage hypertension. It even showed that people with untreated hypertension and healthy gums have similar blood pressure readings to those who treat their hypertension with medication but also suffer from gum disease.

While this new research doesn’t establish that gum disease causes hypertension and other negative outcomes, it does play a role. When dental health is poor, the challenge of bringing blood pressure under control will be more expensive and is more likely to fail.

Ignoring poor periodontal health could translate to a higher cardiovascular risk in the long term. But increased blood pressure isn’t the only condition associated with poor dental health.

5 Other Health Conditions Linked to Poor Dental Health

1. Gum Disease and Diabetes

Diabetes can reduce the body’s resistance to infection. Elevated blood sugars increase the risk of developing gum disease. What’s more, gum disease can make it harder to keep blood sugar levels in check. Protect your gums by keeping blood sugar levels as close to normal as possible. Brushing after each meal and using floss and an antiseptic mouthwash daily can help prevent gum disease.

2. Stress and Teeth Grinding

If you are stressed, anxious, or depressed, you may be at higher risk for oral health problems. People under stress produce high levels of the hormone cortisol, which wreaks havoc on the body, including the gums. Stress also leads to poor oral care; more than 50 percent of people don’t brush or floss regularly when stressed. Other stress-related habits include smoking, drinking alcohol, and clenching and grinding teeth (called bruxism).

3. Osteoporosis and Tooth Loss

The brittle-bone disease osteoporosis affects all the bones in your body and can cause tooth loss. Bacteria from periodontitis, which is severe gum disease, can also break down the jawbone. One kind of osteoporosis medication, bisphosphonates, may slightly increase the risk of a rare condition called osteonecrosis, which causes bone death in the jaw. This is usually only a concern after involved dental surgery, so make sure you tell us if you take bisphosphonates.

4. Tooth Loss and Kidney Disease

Adults without teeth may be more likely to have chronic kidney disease than those who still have teeth. Exactly how kidney disease and periodontal disease are linked is not 100 percent clear, but researchers suggest that chronic inflammation may be the common thread. Taking care of your teeth and gums may reduce your risk of developing chronic kidney problems.

5. Treating Gum Disease May Help RA

People with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are eight times more likely to have gum disease than people without this autoimmune disease. Inflammation may be the common factor between the two. Making matters worse, people with RA can have trouble brushing and flossing because of damage to finger joints. The good news is that treating existing gum inflammation and infection can also reduce joint pain and inflammation.

Your Bedford Dentist Is Your First Line of Defense

While everyone needs regular dental checkups, those with high blood pressure should especially receive routine care and practice good oral hygiene, and those with poor gum health should be extra vigilant for hypertension. Schedule your checkup today to put yourself on the fast track to good health!