The oral microbiome has the potential to provide an important symbiotic function in human blood pressure physiology by contributing to the generation of nitric oxide (NO), an essential cardiovascular signaling molecule. NO is produced by the human body via conversion of arginine to NO by endogenous nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) but eNOS activity varies by subject. Oral microbial communities are proposed to supplement host NO production by reducing dietary nitrate to nitrite via bacterial nitrate reductases. Unreduced dietary nitrate is delivered to the oral cavity in saliva, a physiological process termed the enterosalivary circulation of nitrate.
Previous studies demonstrated that disruption of enterosalivary circulation via use of oral antiseptics resulted in increases in systolic blood pressure. These previous studies did not include detailed information on the oral health of enrolled subjects. Using 16S rRNA gene sequencing and analysis, we determined whether introduction of chlorhexidine antiseptic mouthwash for 1 week was associated with changes in tongue bacterial communities and resting systolic blood pressure in healthy normotensive individuals with documented oral hygiene behaviors and free of oral disease.