Poor oral hygiene linked to higher blood pressure, study says

A dentist shows you how to correctly brush your teeth.

Little to no exercise and an unhealthy diet can increase your risk of hypertension. Poor oral hygiene can, too, according to a new report.

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Researchers from the University of L'Aquila in Italy recently conducted a study, published in the American Heart Association's Hypertension journal, to determine the link between gum health and blood pressure levels.

To do so, they examined the medical and dental exam records of more than 3,600 people with high blood pressure. They specifically assessed those with periodontal disease, a gum infection that can be caused by lack of thorough brushing and flossing, and those with good oral health.

After analyzing the results, they found that those with healthier gums had lower blood pressure and responded better to blood pressure-lowering medications, compared to those with periodontal disease. In fact, people with the oral condition were 20 percent less likely to have healthy blood pressure ranges.

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"Patients with high blood pressure and the clinicians who care for them should be aware that good oral health may be just as important in controlling the condition as are several lifestyle interventions known to help control blood pressure, such as a low-salt diet, regular exercise and weight control," lead author Davide Pietropaoli said in a statement.

While the scientists do not yet understand why poor oral hygiene is associated with hypertension, they believe those with gum illnesses should monitor their blood pressure more closely and seek dental treatment.

“Physicians should pay close attention to patients' oral health, particularly those receiving treatment for hypertension, and urge those with signs of periodontal disease to seek dental care,” Pietropaoli said. “Likewise, dental health professionals should be aware that oral health is indispensable to overall physiological health, including cardiovascular status.”

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