Benefits administrator blog from Delta Dental

Tag: heart health

Does gum disease affect blood pressure?

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.

The surprising ways a smile keeps hearts pumping

2‑minute read

No matter employees’ opinions about Valentine’s Day, the holiday gives you a chance to remind your workforce to take care of their hearts — both physically and emotionally. Promoting oral health is a great place to start. Check out the unexpected ways a healthy smile is linked to a healthy heart.

Physical impact: If the heart was an engine, how would it run? 

Heart disease

Stronger evidence linking periodontal disease with heart disease continues to emerge. Although we can’t yet say the relationship between oral health and heart health is causal, new research suggests that even poor dental hygiene, such as infrequent tooth brushing, may be a risk factor for heart disease.

Hypertension

Hypertension can lead to a host of serious health threats, including heart attacks and heart failure. That’s why managing your blood pressure is so important for heart health. A new study found that those with healthy gums were less likely to have hypertension and responded better to hypertension treatment than those with gum disease. Food for thought.

Emotional impact: The mind thinks but the heart feels.

Relationships

It may be common knowledge that relationships — romantic or platonic — can hold an important place in one’s heart. But did you know that by encouraging good oral health among your workforce, you may also be helping to boost your employees’ relationships? It’s true! According to the 2017 Delta Dental Plans Association (DDPA) Adult Oral Health & Well-Being Survey:

  • 74% of people say a smile can make or break a first impression
  • 69% of people say a person’s smile stays top of mind after meeting them
  • 76% of people are more attracted to people who show off their smiles often! 

Self-love

Something as simple as a smile can affect everyone around us, including ourselves. In fact, nearly 60% of adults say good oral health makes them feel confident, according to the DDPA survey. Maybe that’s why adults committed to their oral health are more likely to describe themselves as happy and comfortable in their own skin. Adults who prioritize their oral health are also more likely to give their overall well-being an excellent rating.

For Valentine’s Day, and every day, help protect employees’ hearts with healthy smiles. 

With love,

Delta Dental


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New, stronger evidence to support gum disease and heart disease correlation

The dental industry has been aware of the correlation between periodontal disease and a range of overall health issues for years, but there is new, more significant evidence to support the correlation between oral bacteria and heart disease.

A recent study found association between the virulence genes of several bacterial species that cause periodontal disease to atherosclerosis (plaque buildup in the arteries). Virulence genes are what make bacteria effective — in part by allowing bacteria to attach to healthy cells.

For the study, researchers took plaque samples from 65 patients with heart disease from plaque buildup in the arteries and from periodontal pockets, and concluded that the results “strongly correlate periodontal bacterial co-occurrence and periodontal bacterial adhesion factor to atherosclerosis.” This means that the presence of oral bacteria, and the bacteria’s ability to attach to cells, coincides with a higher risk ratio of atherosclerosis.

Previous research studied only the presence of oral bacteria in heart disease patients, but advancements in technology allowed researchers to study the virulence genes of several bacteria species to draw a stronger correlation.

This new evidence does not prove that the oral bacteria is causal, but it does raise more concern for the implications of gum disease — and highlights the importance of monitoring and improving oral health.

Want to learn more about gum disease or other oral health topics? Visit the Oral Health section of deltadentalins.com and encourage your employees to take our gum disease risk quiz.

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