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Treating Gum Disease Lowers Blood Pressure
July 10, 2013

By Nancy Volkers
InteliHealth News Service

INTELIHEALTH - Treatment for gum disease seems to help lower blood pressure, a small study has found.

Researchers at three Brazilian universities did the study. It included 26 people, with an average age of 53. All of them had periodontal (gum) disease, as well as high blood pressure. They had been treated for their high blood pressure for at least 2 years. However, medicines were not helping.

Each person was treated for gum disease. Treatment included removing plaque and tartar from the teeth, both above and below the gum line. If necessary, people had the roots of their teeth smoothed to make it more difficult for bacteria to attach.

In general, people in the study had four to six treatment sessions. Each lasted about an hour. They also were shown how to brush and floss. After all treatment was done, they were given toothbrushes, toothpaste and floss.

The researchers collected information before treatment, and then three months and six months after treatment. Information included:

  • Blood pressure readings
  • Blood levels of proteins that indicate inflammation: C-reactive protein (CRP), interleukin-6 (IL-6) and fibrinogen
  • The size of the heart's left ventricle (the part that pumps blood to the body)
  • A measure of artery stiffness, which increases the risk of heart disease

Six months after treatment for periodontal disease, the researchers found:

  • Eighteen of the 26 patients had lower systolic blood pressure. This is the first, higher number in a blood pressure reading. The median systolic blood pressure dropped from 175 millimeters of mercury (mmHg) to 157.5 mmHg.
  • Twenty of the 26 patients had lower diastolic blood pressure. This is the second, lower number. The median diastolic blood pressure dropped from 105 mmHg to 95 mmHg.
  • The average size of the left ventricle decreased by about 6%. Arteries also became less stiff. These changes mean that after treatment, people's hearts did not need to work as hard to pump blood. Reductions in the size of the left ventricle are linked with lower risks of heart disease and heart-related death.
  • Levels of all the inflammatory proteins dropped. CRP and IL-6 dropped by 50% or more. Fibrinogen dropped by about 8%.

At the 6-month mark, people in the study also had less plaque on their teeth and healthier gums.

This study did not include a control group of similar patients who did not get treatment. So the researchers can't be sure how much of the change was due to the periodontal disease treatment. Other factors, such as improved brushing and flossing habits, might have affected the results.

Researchers note that larger studies with control groups would be useful. However, they suggest that people with high blood pressure and periodontal disease should still receive treatment for the periodontal disease. If nothing else, treatment will improve their oral health. It also may help to control their high blood pressure.

The study appears in the July issue of the Journal of Clinical Periodontology.

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