Can Brushing My Teeth Lower My Blood Pressure?

Preventative Orthodontics

Getting stuck in long lines, having a flat tire on the interstate, or dealing with a problem child are enough to send your blood pressure through the roof at times.

Korean researchers recently discovered another potential culprit of hypertension: poor oral hygiene habits.

This study looked at data collected between 2008 and 2010 from 19,560 people in the Korea National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, according to the American Academy of Periodontology. Investigators evaluated daily brushing habits, as well as dental floss, mouthwash, interdental brushes and electric toothbrush use.

Nearly 6,000 study participants were diagnosed with high blood pressure. For individuals with and without periodontitis (the most severe form of gum disease), those who brushed their teeth frequently had a decreased prevalence of hypertension. Overall, study participants with poor oral hygiene habits were more likely to have higher hypertension frequency.

Researchers in this study came to the conclusion that periodontitis and hypertension might be linked, because inflammation may lead to elevated blood pressure.  They went on to hypothesize that people with poor oral hygiene behavior are more likely to have a higher prevalence of hypertension, even if they exhibit no signs of periodontitis. Therefore, oral hygiene may be considered an independent risk factor for hypertension, and maintaining good periodontal health habits may prevent and control the condition, according to the AAP.

We know hypertension needs to be controlled, because it can lead to more serious health conditions, including stroke, damage to the heart and arteries, and kidney defects.

“It’s interesting how yet again, researchers have identified a link between oral health and systemic health issues,” says Collegeville periodontist Dr. David DiGiallorenzo.

Inflammation is a key initiator of all acute and chronic disease states, including cardiovascular disease, periodontal disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer and most autoimmune disorders and neurologic disorders, Dr. DiGiallorenzo says, adding, “Untreated dental disease including gum disease and infected teeth will unequivocally act as a source of inflammatory mediators.”

“These chronic inflammatory mediators will cause a shift in gene expression and result in diseases. This is called epigenics,” he says. “Evidence is conclusive that we must rearrange our paradigm as practitioners to educate our patients about this relationship. Oral infection is still pervasive in the global population.”

These studies are useful in helping periodontists drive home the importance of good oral health and promoting a whole-body approach to health.

“Certainly diet, lifestyle and reduction of toxin exposure remain at the heart of a preventive lifestyle,” Dr. DiGiallorenzo says. “I’m hopeful that the more evidence we show patients about how keeping their teeth and gums healthy can promote overall health, patients will lead happier, healthier lives.”

Meet Dr. D

Dr. David DiGiallorenzo received his training at the University of Pennsylvania in the Department of Periodontics and Periodontal Prosthesis in the early 1990s. His training included prosthodontics, orthodontics, periodontics, and advanced oral reconstructive techniques, including oral implantology.

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