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Editor's e-Note
New research published in Hypertension, an American Heart Association journal, indicates a link between periodontitis and high blood pressure. The study involved 250 adults with severe gum disease and 250 adults with healthy gums, all of whom were otherwise healthy. Individuals with gum disease were twice as likely to have systolic blood pressures higher than 140 mm Hg compared with individuals without gum disease.

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— Kate Jackson, editor
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Hypertension: What Does Gum Health Have to Do With It?

Adults with periodontitis, a severe gum infection, may be significantly more likely to have higher blood pressure compared with individuals who had healthy gums, according to new research published in Hypertension, an American Heart Association journal.

Previous studies have found an association between hypertension and periodontitis; however, research confirming the details of this association is scarce. Periodontitis is an infection of the gum tissues that hold teeth in place that can lead to progressive inflammation, bone loss, or tooth loss. Prevention and treatment of periodontitis is cost-effective and can lead to reduction of systemic markers of inflammation as well as improvement in function of the endothelium (thin membrane lining the inside of the heart and blood vessels).

“Patients with gum disease often present with elevated blood pressure, especially when there is active gingival inflammation, or bleeding of the gums,” says lead study author Eva Muñoz Aguilera, DDS, MClinDent, senior researcher at UCL Eastman Dental Institute in London, United Kingdom. “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 included 250 adults with generalized, severe periodontitis (≥50% of teeth measured with gum infection) 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. The median age of the participants was 35 years, and 52.6% were female. The research was completed in collaboration with the department of dentistry at the Universitat Internacional de Catalunya in Barcelona, Spain.

All participants underwent comprehensive periodontal examinations including detailed measures of gum disease severity, such as full-mouth dental plaque, bleeding of the gums, and the depth of the infected gum pockets. Blood pressure assessments were measured three times for each participant to ensure accuracy. Fasting blood samples were also collected and analyzed for high levels of white blood cells and high sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP), as both are markers of increased inflammation in the body. Additional information analyzed as confounders included family history of cardiovascular disease, age, body mass index, gender, ethnicity, smoking, and physical activity levels.

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