Hypertension, or high blood pressure, affects one in three American adults. It’s estimated that one in five people with high blood pressure don’t realize they have it.
A 2010 study found that oral hygiene may be considered an independent risk factor for hypertension and that maintaining healthy gums may prevent and control the condition.
May is National High Blood Pressure Education Month. Now’s a great time to learn about the connection between gum disease and high blood pressure because your dentist may be the one to spot potential signs of high blood pressure.
How can a dentist spot potential signs of high blood pressure?
1. Dentists check for signs of gum disease.
During a routine dental examination, your dentist looks for signs of periodontitis, or gum disease.
The mouth is an ideal breeding area for bacteria. If you have gum disease, you’re at increased risk for having potentially harmful bacteria enter your bloodstream through infected gum tissue. Researchers believe this helps contribute to plaque buildup in arteries, leading to increased blood pressure.
This doesn’t mean gum disease causes high blood pressure. It’s simply considered a risk factor for it.
2. Dentists review your dental and medical history.
Ever wonder why your dentists asks about the medications you’re taking and general health? It’s because our bodies are systems and oral and overall health are connected.
Certain medications and health conditions, in combination with signs of gum disease, may indicate you have high blood pressure.
High blood pressure is referred to as “the silent killer.” You may have it and not know about it. Dentists are trained to help connect the dots between your oral and overall health. They’re able to look at your whole health to help catch and treat issues before they become major problems.
3. Dentists check your blood pressure.
Blood pressure checks are required so your dentist can choose the proper local anesthetic for dental treatment.
If your dentist checks your blood pressure at your dental examination, you may just get the discovery you need to deal with what up to then was an unknown health risk.
Detecting hypertension in its early stages can help prevent it from becoming a major problem later on.
If your dentist suspects you may have high blood pressure, your dentist will likely recommend you follow-up with your physician for further screening.
How to Prevent Gum Disease
- Brush for two minutes, twice a day
- Floss at least once a day
- Visit your dentist regularly
Brushing and flossing everyday are necessary for good oral health. You know that. But here’s something you maybe don’t know. Staying on top of your preventive dental visits also helps prevent, and can even reverse, gum disease.
How to Prevent High Blood Pressure
- Eat healthy
- Exercise regularly
- Don’t smoke
There are many risks factors for developing high blood pressure. Some of them are genetic and can't really be prevented. Others are caused by the choices we make. This list may look familiar because it addresses lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your risk of high blood pressure.
It’s the three things you’re always told will improve your health. There’s a reason – they work. Not only will adopting these healthy habits help reduce your risk for developing high blood pressure, they’re also good for your oral health.
Want to learn more?
Talk to your dentist to learn more about gum disease, high blood pressure, and your unique risks.
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