As your Eugene family dentist, Dr. Rita Feldmanis strives to help protect the oral and overall health of her patients. If you’ve been reading our blog, you know that a lot of recent research has found a range of evidence that suggests an association between our oral health and a number of chronic illnesses. According to studies, individuals that suffer from tooth decay and gum disease have a significantly higher risk for developing a range of health problems that include heart disease, stroke, diabetes, dementia, arthritis, and cancer. While researchers continue to search for what connects oral disease with these types of systemic conditions, further studies continue to provide surprising revelations.
According to one recent study, aggressively treating gum disease may actually help to lower the blood pressure of individuals at high risk for hypertension (high blood pressure).
Treating Hypertension Through Dental Care
The study involved the participation of over 100 Chinese men and women 18 and older who suffered from pre-hypertension – blood pressure that’s higher than normal but just low enough not to qualify as hypertension – and moderate to severe gum disease. As part of the study, half of the participants received intensive treatment for gum disease, while the other half received a more standard level of treatment.
The standard level of treatment for hypertension included instruction on basic oral hygiene habits and a thorough teeth cleaning to remove plaque deposits located above the gum line. Intensive treatment included both the standard level of treatment as well as a deeper cleaning of plaque deposits on the roots of teeth, antibiotic treatments, and the removal of teeth badly damaged by disease and decay.
After 30 days following their gum disease treatment, systolic blood pressure – the first number in a reading – was three points lower in the intensive treatment group when compared to the standard treatment group. However, researchers noted no difference in the diastolic – or the bottom number – readings, according to the study.
After 90 days following treatment, systolic blood pressure readings were nearly eight points lower and the diastolic pressure was nearly four points lower in the intensive treatment group. Six months following treatment, systolic blood pressure readings were 13 points lower and the diastolic readings were nearly 10 points lower in the intensive treatment group.
The Potential for a Healthier Body
“The present study demonstrates for the first time that intensive periodontal intervention alone can reduce blood pressure levels, inhibit inflammation and improve endothelial function,” wrote the study’s lead researcher, Dr. Jun Tao, in a press release issued by the American Heart Association. Dr. Tao serves as the First Affiliated Hospital of Sun Yat-sen University of Guangzhou, China chief of the department of hypertension and vascular disease.
Roughly one out of every three adults in the U.S. – almost 75 million people – suffer from high blood pressure, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. High blood pressure ranks as a major risk factor for both stroke and heart attack.
The results of this study are scheduled to presented at this year’s annual meeting of the American Heart Association.
While the early study findings are considered encouraging, researchers caution that no final conclusions should be drawn about treating hypertension through aggressive gum disease treatments. However, further research into this subject could continue to show a more definitive cause and effect relationship.
What this and other studies do show, however, is the importance of receiving regular dental care and cleanings. By scheduling regular exams with your Eugene family dentist and cleanings with our staff of gentle dental hygienists, you can not only help to better protect the long-term health of your teeth and gums, but your overall health as well.