Can a Tooth Infection Cause High Blood Pressure

Tooth and gum infections can raise your blood pressure significantly. This may surprise you but it is true. However, as with many things, there is a solution.

What is blood pressure?

Blood is supplied to the body through a continuous process of contraction and relaxation of the ventricles in the heart. This process is called the heartbeat and its purpose is to push blood out of the ventricles of the heart to the rest of the body and to receive blood from other parts of the body in a continuous cycle. 

Blood pressure is used to describe the force at which the circulated blood moves through the arteries.1 The blood pressure is typically higher during heartbeats when the heart is pumping blood (the systolic pressure) than when the heart is at rest, between beats (the diastolic pressure).2 

Have high blood pressure? Tell your dentist about it

You are expected to see your dentist at least once every six months. Your dentist may include blood pressure checks as part of the check-up, however some dentists may not. If you already have high blood pressure, you are advised to tell your dentist about it before going ahead with any procedure. Anesthetics, which are used in certain dental procedures, can sometimes contain active ingredients that will either raise your blood pressure or interact with medications you may be taking, and cause adverse reactions.3 Therefore, it is very important for you to know the state of your blood pressure and to let your dentist know if you have any blood pressure issues before opting for any dental procedure. This information will help your dentist to determine the best course of action for you. 

How is blood pressure measured?

As your heart pumps blood throughout the day, your blood pressure rises and falls. Blood pressure is a combination presented in two figures, for example,120/80, representing the systolic and diastolic blood pressure.4 The systolic pressure (larger number) represents the pressure in your arteries when the heart is beating, while the diastolic pressure (smaller number) represents the pressure in your arteries when the heart is at rest, between each heartbeat. When your arteries are healthy and properly dilated, blood flows easily through the arteries and your heart does not have to work too hard to pump blood. However, if your arteries are too narrow and blood cannot flow easily, the heart has a harder time pumping blood, causing an increase in your blood pressure.5

Research shows that normal blood pressure is less than or equal to 120/80 mmHg.6 Blood pressure is measured using a sphygmomanometer, which is specifically designed to calculate the blood pressure from your brachial artery

How high is “High” blood pressure?

Blood pressure is often measured when you are at rest at various times of the day. If these readings are consistently high, then you may have high blood pressure, which is called hypertension.7 High blood pressure refers to any blood pressure reading that shows a systolic pressure higher than 120 and a diastolic pressure higher than 80.6 Blood pressure readings higher than 120/80 mmHg but lower than 130/80 mmHg may not necessarily mean that you are hypertensive, but instead that you are pre-hypertensive and may soon develop hypertension if it is not addressed. 

What causes hypertension?  

According to the American Heart Association, high blood pressure refers to a blood pressure reading of 130mmHg and higher for the systolic, and 90 mmHg and higher for the diastolic.6 

Hypertension is often referred to as a silent killer, because many people do not know that they are hypertensive until they develop other conditions like heart conditions, stroke, and kidney problems.4 

There is no specific reason why people develop hypertension, but there are risk factors associated with it. Some of these include: 

  • Age: the arteries grow older as you get older. Over time, they may become thicker, which makes it harder for blood to pass through. 
  • Genetics: if you have a relative with hypertension, you may be at a greater risk of becoming hypertensive. 
  • Lifestyle habits: unhealthy lifestyle habits like smoking, lack of exercise, and drinking too much alcohol can put you at risk of developing hypertension.8 
  • Obesity: having excess body fat means that the heart has to work harder to get blood to all parts of the body. This can put an unnecessary strain on the heart and arteries.4

Other factors linked to hypertension are gum disease and tobacco use.4

Other signs and symptoms of high blood pressure

Many people never know that they have hypertension because it rarely presents with any symptoms. Therefore, it is advised that you check your blood pressure regularly. However, if you experience one or more of the following, it may be linked to an increase in your blood pressure: headaches early in the morning, frequent nosebleeds, changes in your heart’s rhythm when you are at rest, blurry vision, and buzzing in the ears.

How can my dentist help with high blood pressure?

Some studies show that people who have good dental hygiene are less likely to become hypertensive, and that people who have gum disease are at a higher risk of becoming hypertensive. Therefore, your dentist is in a good position to detect when you are developing gum disease and advise you on what to do to prevent it from affecting your blood pressure. Also, if your blood pressure is high, they can direct you to a professional, who can better manage your high blood pressure. 

Dental and non-dental ways to help yourself with blood pressure

  • Prioritise your dental care: brush twice a day and floss often to keep your teeth and gums in good shape. Also, make regular appointments with your dentist so that they can easily detect changes in your dental health and address them.10 In addition, eat foods that are healthy and nutritional. 
  • Be physically active: Try to exercise and maintain a healthy weight to prevent any weight-related effects on your blood pressure.
  • Cut down your alcohol and tobacco intake: consuming these substances puts you at risk of developing or worsening hypertension. 

Treatment and home remedies

Hypertension does not presently have a cure, but it can be managed and kept at normal levels using medication. You cannot diagnose yourself with hypertension; only your doctor can do that after running diagnostic tests. There are many drugs that are prescribed for hypertension, but they cannot be sold without a prescription from your doctor. 

There are some home remedies for hypertension, but it is best to consult with your doctor about the most effective treatment option for you. 

Summary

Although tooth infections or gum diseases are not the root cause of high blood pressure, they have been shown to increase your chances of being hypertensive. Therefore, oral health is as important as physical activity, in preventing high blood pressure. Caring about what you eat and drink, as well as caring for your mouth, is essential for preventing tooth and gum diseases and ultimately preventing hypertension. 

References

  1. Mercadante AA, Raja A. Anatomy, arteries. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 [cited 2022 Oct 13]. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK547743/ 
  2. High blood pressure [Internet]. [cited 2022 Oct 13]. Available from: https://medlineplus.gov/highbloodpressure.html 
  3. Hester J. 3 reasons why your high blood pressure matters to your dentist [Internet]. Dental Depot. 2019 [cited 2022 Oct 13]. Available from: https://dentaldepot.net/3-reasons-why-your-high-blood-pressure-matters-to-your-dentist/ 
  4. CDC. High blood pressure symptoms, causes, and problems | cdc. Gov [Internet]. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2021 [cited 2022 Oct 13]. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/about.htm 
  5. How is blood pressure measured? - hypertension center - everyday health [Internet]. EverydayHealth.com. [cited 2022 Oct 13]. Available from: https://www.everydayhealth.com/hypertension/understanding/what-does-blood-pressure-measure.aspx 
  6. Whelton PK, Carey RM, Aronow WS, Casey DE, Collins KJ, Dennison HC, et al. 2017 acc/aha/aapa/abc/acpm/ags/apha/ash/aspc/nma/pcna guideline for the prevention, detection, evaluation, and management of high blood pressure in adults. Journal of the American College of Cardiology [Internet]. 2018 May 15 [cited 2022 Oct 13];71(19):e127–248. Available from: https://www.jacc.org/doi/10.1016/j.jacc.2017.11.006 
  7. What is blood pressure and how is it measured? [Internet]. Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2019 [cited 2022 Oct 13]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279251/ 
  8. High blood pressure - causes and risk factors | nhlbi, nih [Internet]. [cited 2022 Oct 13]. Available from: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/high-blood-pressure/causes 
  9. Hypertension [Internet]. [cited 2022 Oct 13]. Available from: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/hypertension 
  10. Can dental problems cause high blood pressure? | PA Perio Center [Internet]. Pennsylvania Center for Periodontics. 2021 [cited 2022 Oct 13]. Available from: https://paperiocenter.com/blog/can-dental-problems-cause-high-blood-pressure/

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Toluwanimi Ojeniyi

Master of Science - MS, Global Health, University of Ibadan, Nigeria

Toluwanimi is a Public Health specialist with experience in programs administration and health insurance. She is currently undertaking a Masters in Global Health at the University of Ibadan.
She is a skilled health educator and health writer. In her free time, she reads and volunteers.

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