Taking care of your teeth and gums could also protect you from heart disease according to a study published in the journal Hypertension.
Scientists have discovered that adults with periodontitis, a severe gum infection, may be significantly more likely to have higher blood pressure compared to people with healthy gums.
Periodontitis is an infection of the gum tissues that hold teeth in place that can lead to progressive inflammation, bone or tooth loss.
"Patients with gum disease often present with elevated blood pressure, especially when there is active gingival inflammation, or bleeding of the gums," said lead study author Eva Muñoz Aguilera, 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."
The study included 250 adults with generalised, severe periodontitis 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.
The researchers found that a diagnosis of gum disease was associated with higher odds of hypertension, independent of common cardiovascular risk factors. Individuals with gum disease were twice as likely to have high blood pressure values compared to people with healthy gums.
Corresponding author Francesco D'Aiuto, professor of periodontology and head of the periodontology unit at the UCL Eastman Dental Institute, said: "The link between gum disease and elevated blood pressure occurs well before a patient develops high blood pressure. Our study also confirms that a worryingly high number of individuals are unaware of a possible diagnosis of hypertension.
"Integration of hypertension screening by dental professionals with referrals to primary care professionals and periodontal disease screening by medical professionals with referrals to periodontists could improve detection and treatment of both conditions to improve oral health and reduce the burden of hypertension and its complications.
"Oral health strategies such as brushing teeth twice daily are proven to be very effective in managing and preventing the most common oral conditions, and our study's results indicate they can also be a powerful and affordable tool to help prevent hypertension."