May is National High Blood Pressure Education Month, and your employees need to be aware of the risks of hypertension and how to keep blood pressure under control. During their dental visits, employees can monitor their status through blood pressure checks.

The causal link between gum disease and hypertension

Patients with periodontitis and no other health issues are twice as likely to have elevated blood pressure as those with healthy gums, according to a March 2021 research study. Periodontal bacteria can trigger an inflammatory response that affects blood vessel function and lead to the development of hypertension.

Before a Delta Dental dentist starts an exam, a blood pressure check can reveal issues beyond oral health. Patients with gum disease may be at higher risk for hypertension, due to bacteria. Research has found a correlation between oral bacteria and plaque buildup in arteries.

A normal blood pressure reading is less than 120 mm Hg systolic and less than 80 mm Hg diastolic, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. Your employee should be concerned if the systolic/diastolic reading falls into one of these categories:

  • Elevated: 120–129 mm Hg and less than 80 mm Hg
  • Stage 1 Hypertension: 130–139 mm Hg or 80–89 mm Hg
  • Stage 2 Hypertension: >140 mm Hg or > 90 mm Hg

Hypertension can put your employees at risk for heart disease and stroke, the leading causes of death in the U.S. Nearly half (45%) the adults in the U.S. have hypertension or are taking medication to control it, and 24% of them have it under control. 

The dangers of gum disease

Gum disease triggers inflammation that thickens the lining of blood vessels. The thickening plaques decrease blood flow, which increases the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Patients with healthier gums had lower blood pressure and responded better to medications, compared to those with periodontitis, according to an analysis, published in Hypertension, based on review of medical and dental exam records of more than 3,600 people with high blood pressure.

What’s more, periodontal therapy can make a difference. Intensive periodontal treatment lowered blood pressure levels (12.67 mm Hg/9.65 mm Hg) in patients over six months, after a four-week intervention, according to a clinical study published in 2017 in the Journal of Periodontology.

During an office visit, the dentist can check blood pressure and alert the employee to risks if the reading is elevated. This first-line screening can ensure proper medical treatment can be given.

Educating your employees

As a benefits administrator, you can promote for blood pressure control awareness and healthy habits to your employees to help prevent serious health issues. In addition to adequate nutrition, exercise and sleep, you can emphasize the importance of regular checkups by health care providers.

You can encourage employees to take a quiz to determine their gum disease risk. Delta Dental dentists can explain how keeping gums healthy can contribute to better circulation and heart function through lowering blood pressure.

For employees with heart disease, you can offer SmileWay Wellness Benefits to give them incentives for keeping it under control. Their periodontal treatment and advice on daily flossing and brushing regimens add value to your employees’ plan, not only for oral health but also for heart health.