Loss of Teeth in Older Women Increases Hypertension Risk

Joshua H. Gordon

Joshua H. Gordon

Published February 4, 2019

Joshua H. Gordon, a student in the MD-PhD Program, is lead author of a study showing that postmenopausal women who have experienced loss of all teeth are at higher risk of developing high blood pressure.

“We are continuing to explore the underlying reasons for the association between tooth loss and hypertension.”
Joshua H. Gordon
MD-PhD student

More Than 36,000 US Women Studied

The study was published Dec. 4 in the American Journal of Hypertension.

Study participants were 36,692 postmenopausal U.S. women from the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study. Participants were followed annually from initial periodontal assessment through 2015 for newly diagnosed hypertension.

The study observed a positive association between the loss of all teeth and hypertension risk among postmenopausal women. Specifically, these women had an approximately 20 percent greater risk of developing hypertension during follow-up compared to women who still had natural teeth. The association was stronger among younger women and those with lower body mass index.

“We are continuing to explore the underlying reasons for the association between tooth loss and hypertension,” says Gordon, a third-year medical student in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. “Future studies on the impact of tooth loss on dietary patterns, inflammation and the communities of bacteria that live in the mouth may give us further insight into this association.”

Preventive Measures May Reduce Risk

There are several possible reasons for the observed association. One theory is that tooth loss could lead to changes in dietary patterns that could be associated with higher risk of hypertension. There was no association found between periodontal disease and hypertension.

The study suggests that postmenopausal women who have lost their teeth may represent a group with higher risk for developing hypertension. As such, the researchers involved in the study believe that improved dental hygiene among those at risk for tooth loss, as well as preventive measures such as closer blood pressure monitoring, dietary modification, physical activity and weight loss may reduce the risk of hypertension. Studies to assess these factors would be needed to determine if these interventions would impact risk of hypertension.

Tooth Loss May Be Clinical Warning Sign

The findings also suggest tooth loss may serve as a clinical warning sign for increased hypertension risk.

“These findings suggest tooth loss may be an important factor in the development of hypertension,” says the paper’s senior author, Jean Wactawski-Wende, PhD, dean of UB’s School of Public Health and Health Professions, SUNY Distinguished Professor and Gordon’s mentor. “Further research may help us to determine the underlying mechanisms by which these two common diseases are associated.”

Thomas R. Cimato, MD, PhD, associate professor of medicine, is also a co-author.

Other co-authors associated with UB include:

  • Robert J. Genco, DDS, PhD, SUNY Distinguished Professor of oral biology and microbiology and immunology and director of the UB Microbiome Center
  • Michael J. LaMonte, PhD, research associate professor of epidemiology and environmental health in the School of Public Health and Health Professions
  • Jiwei Zhao, PhD, assistant professor of biostatistics in the School of Public Health and Health Professions
  • Kathleen M. Hovey, data analyst and statistician, Department of Epidemiology and Environmental Health in the School of Public Health and Health Professions

Other co-authors are from the University of California San Diego and the University of Texas Medical Branch.