Importance of Dental Care When You Have High Blood Pressure
Good dental care and oral hygiene is always important, but it's even more vital for people who suffer from high blood pressure. That's because your teeth and your blood pressure can affect each other in multiple ways. Here's all you need to know about this twofold issue, along with what you can do to keep your teeth and heart healthy.
How High Blood Pressure Affects Dental Health
While high blood pressure can have a lot of unpleasant symptoms, hypertension itself isn't usually the cause of dental health problems. Instead, it's the medication that can hurt your teeth.
Specifically, CCB medicines (also known as calcium channel blockers or calcium antagonists) are the main culprit. You'll known you're taking CCBs if the high blood pressure drug you've been prescribed has amlodipine, diltiazem, felodipine, nifedipine, nimodipine or verapamil as its active ingredient. These medications can go by many brand names, so if you're unsure, ask your cardiologist or primary care doctor for more information.
CCBs affect your dental health by thickening your gum tissue. Thickened gums can be both visually unappealing and uncomfortable when eating, but what's worse is that they can make cleaning your teeth difficult. When your gums are swollen, you won't be able to reach the whole surface of your tooth with your brush. Inadequate brushing leaves plaque in your mouth, putting you at greater risk of gingivitis and periodontitis (gum disease).
These medicines can also make your mouth dry. Your saliva is a big help in washing away plaque and keeping enamel strong, so dry mouth is another cause of dental health problems like gum disease and painful tooth sensitivity.
How Dental Health Affects High Blood Pressure
The relationship between dental health and hypertension goes both ways, meaning your teeth can have an effect on your blood pressure too.
First, research indicates that gum disease can make blood pressure higher. A study in Korea found that people who brushed their teeth often and had good oral hygiene were less likely to suffer from hypertension. This is supported by another research project conducted in China, which showed that thorough treatment of gum disease could help to lower blood pressure.
Second, it's important to note the link heart failure has with both hypertension and gum disease. If you've talked to your doctor about high blood pressure, you may already know that it's a common risk factor for heart attacks. This is because the strain hypertension puts on your circulatory system can narrow your arteries and cause a build-up of fat, cholesterol and plaque, known as atherosclerosis.
But high blood pressure isn't the only cause of atherosclerosis; it can also be worsened by gum disease. On top of that, scientists believe that the bacteria in your mouth could also release harmful toxins if it ends up in your blood stream. The effects of this would include blood vessel damages, blood clots and artery inflammation — all of which could lead to a heart attack.
If you have both high blood pressure and poor oral health, you're putting yourself at a much greater risk of developing a serious heart problem.
What You Can Do About It
If you do have high blood pressure, there's no need to stress-out or worry — you can significantly reduce both your dental and heart health risks by practicing good oral hygiene. Brushing regularly is the best way to get rid of disease-causing plaque and bacteria. If you have swollen or thickened gums, it's also very important that you always supplement your usual brushing with flossing and interdental brushing to clean every part of the tooth's surface.
If you're not happy with the side effects of your CCB medication, you may want to talk to your doctor about changing to a different drug such as ACE inhibitors or beta blockers. Dry mouth can also be combated with saliva replacement gels and sprays.
Alongside this, seeing a dentist regularly will go a long way in preventing gum disease or treating it before it becomes a problem. If you're looking for a helpful and knowledgeable dentist, book an appointment at Carlton Dental.