Survival Update

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Dental Hygiene and High Blood Pressure

When you were a child, an adult probably encouraged you to brush your teeth a couple of times a day. When you got a bit older, they added the concept of flossing to the dental hygiene routine.

Even when we didn’t want to, we usually complied. After all, who wanted to have to go to the dentist to face the dreaded drill when cavities showed up? And all those ads showed pretty people with nice white teeth.

We wanted those same smiles, so we took care of our teeth, more or less. Well, two things have become clear as medical advances have been made. One is that many of us don’t take care of our teeth quite as enthusiastically as we should. The second finding is that poor dental hygiene has consequences far beyond what can be seen in the mirror.

How widespread is poor dental health? Pretty common, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Apparently more than 47 percent of adults in the United States have some form of gum disease. Many of these folks aren’t aware that they have gum health problems, or at least the extent of the issue. After all, you’d think that a quick brushing morning and night should be enough to keep our pearly whites healthy, right?

Think again.

Dental hygiene takes more time and effort than many of us once thought, and it turns out that time and effort is well spent.

Recently, studies have suggested that there may be a link between gum disease and hypertension (high blood pressure). To be sure that the findings were reliable, medical investigators reviewed and analyzed the evidence collected from 81 different studies carried out in 26 countries.

The research found that average blood pressure tends to be significantly higher in individuals with gum disease (periodontitis). In fact, a person with moderate periodontitis is 22% more likely to suffer from hypertension, while someone with severe periodontitis has a 49% higher risk of this problem. Because hypertension makes a person more likely to suffer a stroke or heart attack, these findings are quite significant.

So, if gum disease is fairly common in this country and hypertension is diagnosed regularly, what can be done to improve this problem? When a doctor diagnoses a patient with high blood pressure, he or she often advises a change in diet, more exercise, and weight loss.

In addition to these helpful changes, doctors should explain to the patient the importance of dental hygiene and regular visits to the dentist. It would also be helpful if more insurance companies offered affordable dental policies.

If you are concerned about the health of your gums, here are some of the symptoms of periodontal disease: swollen or puffy gums, red or purplish gums, gums that feel tender when touched, gums that bleed easily, and gums that pull away from your teeth.

While periodontitis is common, it is also preventable. Brushing at least twice daily, flossing daily, and getting regular dental check-ups can greatly improve your chances of successful treatment for periodontitis or can reduce your chance of developing it in the first place.

So, get out that toothbrush and dental floss! Not only will your mouth feel and look better, but you will be lowering your chances of heart problems related to poor dental health.