If you walk into your doctor’s office and your blood pressure is high, chances are you’ll be told to eat less salt. And if your reading is higher than 130/80, it’s likely you’ll be prescribed a blood pressure drug.
But a surprising study shows that hypertension in many people may be caused by a common dental problem. And in these patients, eating less salt and taking blood pressure drugs don’t work.
Researchers at the University of L’Aquila in Italy reviewed the dental and medical records of more than 3,600 people. They found that people with gum disease, also known as periodontitis, were more likely to have high blood pressure.i
And they discovered that gum disease sufferers often have treatment-resistant hypertension. This means they have trouble lowering their blood pressure with medications or lifestyle changes like cutting salt.ii
The study found that when people with gum disease take hypertension meds, their blood pressure goes down less than half as much as it does for patients who don’t have gum disease.iii
Dr. Davide Pietropaoli was lead author. He said doctors should be aware that good oral health is just as important in lowering blood pressure as exercise, a low-salt diet, controlling weight, and taking medications.
3 Steps to Healthier Gums
To prevent periodontitis, you should follow the common recommendations to brush your teeth, floss, and visit your dentist for regular cleanings. But there are other, natural solutions that will help keep your gums healthy:
- Use tea tree oil. A study from the University of Adelaide in Australia found that tea tree oil reduces gingivitis, which is the earliest stage of gum disease.
Tea tree oil is an ingredient in some brands of toothpaste. Or you can make your own tea tree oil mouth rinse. Simply add three drops of tea tree oil to a cup of warm water and swish it in your mouth. Do not swallow. Do this once a day.iv v
- Avoid commercial mouthwashes. Regular alcohol-based mouthwashes kill the good bacteria in your mouth that fight gum disease. Look for natural mouthwashes online or in health food stores. Check labels to make sure the mouthwash is not “antibacterial.”
A good option is a mouthwash containing neem. This is a plant used in Ayurvedic medicine. Studies show it reduces plaque and inhibits gingivitis without killing good bacteria.vi
- Eat cranberries. A 2013 study in the Journal of Periodontal Research found the tart fruit may help regulate oral inflammation. It also inhibits bacteria from sticking to your teeth. Cranberry juice likely has the same effect as the whole fruit.vii
The most important message from the study is this: If you have elevated blood pressure, make sure your dentist thoroughly checks your gums for signs of periodontitis. Once you get treatment for your gums, you may find that your hypertension disappears.
Editor’s Note: There is a heart attack risk factor that is 10 times more dangerous than cholesterol. But mainstream doctors don’t test for it. And statins actually make it worse.
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