While poor oral health can lead to poorer cardiovascular health, sometimes the act of trying to improve your mouth can impact your heart too.
According to Dentistry Today, using mouthwash could increase your blood pressure. A group of researchers has found that a chemical in mouthwash known as chlorhexidine could kill good bacteria and raise blood pressure.
Professor Nathan Bryan said of the results: “Nitric oxide is one of the most important signalling molecules produced in the human body.
“As NO is a ubiquitous signalling module, the systemic effects of orally produced bacteria may have other significant effects on human health beyond maintenance of blood pressure.”
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How did they find out mouthwash had this effect?
The researchers used rRNA gene sequencing and analysis to examine whether the introduction of mouthwash with chlorhexidine was associated with a change in the bacterial make-up of the tongue.
They found mouthwash affected the bacterial make-up and impacted blood pressure, but just one type of blood pressure.
What are the two different types of blood pressure?
There are two types of blood pressure, both of which come together to make up your blood pressure reading.
Known as systolic and diastolic blood pressure, these two figures need to be at a certain level in each person for them to be considered healthy.
Systolic blood pressure is the force at which the heart pumps blood around the body while diastolic blood pressure is the resistance to the blood flow in the blood vessels.
Mouthwash was found to raise the former, systolic blood pressure.
Can systolic blood pressure be improved by improving mouth health?
Yes, it can. The researchers concluded that the tongue microbiome could be managed through regular cleaning and adequate dietary changes.
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Professor Bryan added: “We know that one cannot be well without an adequate amount of NO circulating throughout the body.
“Yet the very first thing over 200 million Americans do each day is use an antiseptic mouthwash, which destroys the good bacteria that helps to create the NO. These once thought good habits may be doing more harm than good.
“The demonstration that the presence of NO-producing bacteria in the oral cavity can help maintain normal blood pressure gives us another target to help the more than 100 million Americans living with high blood pressure.
“Manipulation of the human microbiome as a therapeutic target for disease management is on the near horizon.”
The best ways to manage high blood pressure
Blood pressure can be managed and lowered in several ways, mainly through lifestyle changes.
Examples of methods include:
• Cutting salt intake
• Eating a low-fat, balanced diet
• Keeping active
• Cutting down on alcohol
• Losing weight
• Drinking less caffeine
• Quitting smoking.
The NHS say: “You can take these steps today, regardless of whether or not you’re taking blood pressure medicines. In fact, by making these changes early on you may be able to avoid needing medicines.”
More information on blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is available on the NHS website.