Periodontitis increases systemic inflammation and the risk of hypertension

Researchers from the UIC Barcelona Faculty of Dentistry and the Eastman Dental Institute at University College London recently published a study in the Journal of Internal Medicine, which suggests that systemic inflammation may be the link between periodontal disease and hypertension

Results from a previous study by the same group confirmed the relationship between periodontitis and hypertension (https://doi.org/10.1093/cvr/cvz201), however, the mechanisms underlying the association between these two diseases had not been previously investigated. 

Periodontitis is closely linked to hypertension, with systemic inflammation mediating part of this association. This is one of the main conclusions of the study Is Systemic Inflammation a Missing Link Between Periodontitis and Hypertension? Results from Two Large Populations-based Surveys, part of lecturer Eva Muñoz’s doctoral thesis, in which Dr José Nart and Queralt Miró also participated, both researchers at UIC Barcelona.

The cross-disciplinary study was designed to investigate the link between periodontitis and hypertension and in turn analyse the role of systemic inflammation as a mediator of this association. The researchers analysed international databases (NHANES and KNHANES) containing representative samples of United States’ and North Korean populations, carrying out linear regression models, logistics and mediation analysis.

“The results of the study corroborated that participants with periodontitis had about 60% higher risk of suffering from hypertension than those participants with healthy gums”, explains Eva Muñoz, the study's leading author. “These correlations were independent of age, gender, smoking and alcohol consumption, among other variables.” In addition, systemic inflammatory markers such as C-reactive protein and white blood cell counts were elevated in patients with periodontitis and acted as mediators of this association.

This study suggests that systemic inflammation caused by periodontitis may lead to increased blood pressure. “If this association proves to be causal, treatment of periodontitis would not only aim to improve oral health but could also represent a new non-pharmacological treatment to help control hypertension and reduce its complications”, said Eva Muñoz.