02.03.2024

How a simple mouth rinse at your annual dentist check-up could tell if you’re at risk of heart disease

A simple mouth rinse during an annual dentist check-up could help spot people at early risk of heart disease, a study suggests. Scientists believe they could identify the earliest warning signs of the disease – which can lead to heart attacks and strokes – from a saliva sample.

Canadian researchers recruited 28 people aged between 18 and 30 who rinsed their mouths with saline, a mixture of salt and water, which was then collected for analysis.

Participants also had their blood pressure checked and underwent tests on their cardiovascular system.

Canadian researchers recruited 28 people aged between 18 and 30 who rinsed their mouths with saline, a mixture of salt and water, which was then collected for analysis

Results, published in the journal Frontiers in Oral Health, revealed a high white blood cell count in saliva was linked to having poor flow-mediated dilation.

This refers to the widening of arteries when blood flows through them and, when impaired, can be an early indicator of poor arterial health which could lead to heart disease.

Canadian researchers recruited 28 people aged between 18 and 30 who rinsed their mouths with saline, a mixture of salt and water, which was then collected for analysis

The team said the presence of white blood cells indicates inflammation of the gums, which has already been linked to heart problems.

Inflammation from the mouth could enter the bloodstream through the gums, they added, which in turn impacts the arteries.

Co-author Dr Michael Glogauer, from the University of Toronto, said: ‘The mouth rinse could be used at your annual check-up at the family doctors or the dentist.

‘It is easy to implement as an oral inflammation measuring tool in any clinic.’

First author Ker-Yung Hong, from the University of Western Ontario, added: ‘We are starting to see more relationships between oral health and risk of cardiovascular disease.

‘If we are seeing that oral health may have an impact on the risk of developing cardiovascular disease even in young healthy individuals, this holistic approach can be implemented earlier on.’

The team added: ‘Optimal oral hygiene is always recommended in addition to regular visits to the dentist, especially in light of the evidence.’

HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE

High blood pressure, or hypertension, rarely has noticeable symptoms. But if untreated, it increases your risk of serious problems such as heart attacks and strokes.

More than one in four adults in the UK have high blood pressure, although many won’t realise it.

The only way to find out if your blood pressure is high is to have your blood pressure checked.

Blood pressure is recorded with two numbers. The systolic pressure (higher number) is the force at which your heart pumps blood around your body.

The diastolic pressure (lower number) is the resistance to the blood flow in the blood vessels. They’re both measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg).

As a general guide:

  • high blood pressure is considered to be 140/90mmHg or higher
  • ideal blood pressure is considered to be between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg
  • low blood pressure is considered to be 90/60mmHg or lower
  • A blood pressure reading between 120/80mmHg and 140/90mmHg could mean you’re at risk of developing high blood pressure if you don’t take steps to keep your blood pressure under control.

If your blood pressure is too high, it puts extra strain on your blood vessels, heart and other organs, such as the brain, kidneys and eyes.

Persistent high blood pressure can increase your risk of a number of serious and potentially life-threatening conditions, such as:

  • heart disease
  • heart attacks
  • strokes
  • heart failure
  • peripheral arterial disease
  • aortic aneurysms
  • kidney disease
  • vascular dementia

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