“Let me ask you, Mr. Bunker. Are you the excitable type?”
This question, asked by Archie’s doctor in a scene from the popular 1970s sitcom, All in the Family, has no doubt crossed the minds of countless physicians with patients at risk for high blood pressure.
Yes, excitability can certainly be a contributor, but research is revealing other possibilities, starting in the mouth. “Oral health is closely linked to general health,” says Dr. Francesco D’Aiuto, head of the periodontology unit at University College London’s Eastman Dental Institute.
According to a recent review of 81 studies involving more than 250,000 participants, those with moderate gum disease had a 22% increased risk for high blood pressure, and those with severe cases had a 49% higher risk.
The research shows that when gums are infected, bacteria can spread to other parts of the body and cause systemic inflammation.
“Bacteria accumulation around teeth causes gum bleeding and disease, but also could raise body inflammation and cause blood vessel damage,” D’Aiuto explains. For this reason, he believes that dentists should encourage patients to keep tabs on their blood pressure with their primary physician. Many dentists are even performing blood pressure screenings.
Evidence is also showing a link between gum disease and hypertension and hardening of the arteries. “Preventing or treating periodontal disease could reduce blood pressure levels, as well as the risk of major adverse cardiovascular events,” says Dr. Gregg Fonarow, Professor of Cardiology at the University of California, Los Angeles.
More the reason to see your dentist regularly. With dental coverage from your association and AMBA, you could save thousands on everything from routine visits to expensive procedures that might otherwise take a toll on your retirement savings.
The peace of mind alone could help keep your blood pressure down. As Archie’s doctor wisely advises, “Stay calm.”