Eastman Dental Institute


Further evidence that gum disease can lead to high blood pressure

29 March 2020

Adults with periodontitis, a serious gum disease, may be twice as likely to have higher blood pressure compared to those with healthy gums, finds a new study led by UCL Eastman researchers.

Oral microbiome research

New research has found further evidence that periodontitis (gum disease) increases the risk of hypertension (high blood pressure), even in otherwise healthy individuals. 

Previous studies* by UCL Eastman’s Periodontology Unit had suggested this association, with systemic inflammation seemingly the mediator.

The new, case-control study, published in Hypertension, has confirmed that otherwise healthy individuals with gum disease are much more likely to also have higher systolic and diastolic blood pressure values than controls with no gum disease.

Lead researcher Dr Eva Muñoz Aguilera said: “This study set out to further expand our research on the links between gum disease and high blood pressure. 

“Of the 250 cases with gum disease we studied, 35 were shown to have high systolic blood pressure whilst only 19 out of 250 of the controls showed the same. 

“This means having periodontitis could raise your risk of high systolic blood pressure by 203%.

“Additionally, undetected hypertension was a common finding among the population of study.”

Current evidence indicates that periodontal bacteria not only cause damage to the gums, but also trigger systemic inflammatory responses and affect blood vessel health with an impact on the development of common chronic diseases, and among them, hypertension. 

Additionally, previous studies from the group demonstrated that treating periodontitis reduces body inflammation generally, and it has a favourable effect on the health of blood vessels.

Professor Francesco D’Aiuto said: “Our work suggests that implementing hypertension-screening by dental professionals and periodontitis-screening by medical professionals could be extremely useful in detecting these conditions.

"Periodontitis treatment could also represent a novel, non-drug intervention in assisting the management of chronic conditions including hypertension.”

The group now plans a large interventional study to prove that the association between periodontitis and hypertension is causal whilst continuing to investigate the mechanisms behind the link.

The study was part-funded by Department of Health’s NIHR Biomedical Research Centre. See all our BRC projects.

*Further reading: