We know that oral health is closely linked to our overall health, and that oral health problems can lead to serious consequences. Sometimes, poor oral health can cause fatal complications. The risk of some serious complications can be worse if you have high blood pressure (hypertension). 

For example, you might be at higher risk for deadly brain infections caused by oral bacteria if you have high blood pressure. This makes it even more important that you take care of your oral health when you have high blood pressure. 

Mature woman leaning against a wall, smiling

The Blood-Brain Barrier

An infection in your brain or spine can quickly turn deadly. To try to stop this from happening, your body has a special defense structure that is supposed to keep viruses, bacteria, fungi, and other pathogens from entering the brain. 

The tight exits from blood vessels are supposed to admit only blood cells, nutrients, and certain other cells into the brain. Cells that are too large to fit through naturally might be recruited by special cells to permit them passage.

However, high blood pressure can damage the blood-brain barrier. Over time, the pressure from blood can wear down the blood-brain barrier. It becomes more porous, and it’s much easier for bacteria to slip across and attack the brain and spine. 

Oral Bacteria Spread Through Blood

One common source of bacteria that can cross the blood brain barrier is your mouth. Bacteria that live in our mouth can enter our blood through our gums. Whenever our gums experience injury, bacteria can enter our bloodstream. 

With healthy gums, injury is rare. It requires significant trauma. However, if you have gum disease, your gums are sensitive and can experience injury whenever you eat or even when you brush your teeth. This can cause bacterial levels in the blood to spike. When this happens, bacteria will run up against the blood brain barrier. If this barrier is weakened, bacteria will stream through and can infect the brain and spinal cord. 

Gum Disease and High Blood Pressure

What makes this situation even more difficult is that gum disease and high blood pressure are not unrelated. Research shows that people with moderate to severe gum disease are at a 22% higher risk for high blood pressure. Those with severe gum disease have a 49% higher risk of high blood pressure

In other words, gum disease can lead to high blood pressure, which damages your blood brain barrier. Then, when oral bacteria enter your bloodstream, they can more easily penetrate your brain. 

Once inside your brain, infections by oral bacteria can be hard to identify, which delays treatment. Although new technology might speed identification of these types of infection, it might still not be fast enough for lifesaving treatment

Treat Gum Disease to Preserve Your Health

This combination of effects means that it’s very important to keep your teeth and gums healthy. Treating gum disease and cavities can reduce the amount of bacteria that surge into your blood. Plus, some evidence suggests that gum disease treatment can even help lower your blood pressure, as well as protect you from other heart conditions. This could help you avoid serious brain infections and deadly cardiovascular problems. 

If you are overdue for a preventive treatment or are seeing symptoms of gum disease, you should schedule treatment at your first opportunity. Please call (702) 873-0324 today for an appointment at the office of Las Vegas dentist Dr. James B. Polley.