Dr. Leicht is the Dental Director for Oak Orchard Health.
Heart Disease and Oral Health
Many people know that hypertension or high blood pressure can have a harmful effect on many areas of the body, including the heart, kidneys, and eyes. Unfortunately it is not as well known that high blood pressure can also cause many problems within the oral cavity. Negative effects include xerostomia (dry mouth), gingival overgrowth and periodontal disease (loss of tooth supporting bone).
Many antihypertensive medications cause a decrease in salivary flow, which creates a feeling of dry mouth or xerostomia. Decrease in salivary flow has been shown to cause an increased potential for caries (decay), most importantly root caries in geriatric patients, difficulties in chewing and swallowing (which may result in poor nutrition )and candidiasis (fungal infection) Combinations of these drugs can cause a noticeable increase in dry mouth.. However, these may be adjusted or changed by your doctor. Other strategies include the use of sugarless candy or gum, decreasing caffeine intake, avoiding mouthwashes with alcohol, the use of artificial saliva and increasing water intake. It is recommended by dentists to increase the use of fluoride in patients with dry mouth. This can be done with a prescription toothpaste and/or rinses.
Gingival (gum) overgrowth is usually associated with calcium channel blockers and can cause gum bleeding, pain and difficulty in chewing. This problem can be reduced or reversed with a change in the high blood medicine and very good oral hygiene.
Periodontal disease or bone loss has recently been linked to inflammatory diseases such as high blood pressure and diabetes. Side effects of oral bone loss include tooth loss, pain, infection, bleeding gums causing problems with chewing. This disease is routinely checked at regular dental visits. Regular dental cleanings and scaling of root surfaces to remove bacteria can greatly lower the chances of bone loss.