Gum Disease Linked to an Increased Cancer Risk

holistic dentist in Littleton

As a holistic dentist in Littleton, our team at McGinty Dental Group wants all of our patients to understand the connection that exists between our oral and overall health.

In previous posts, we’ve covered studies that have examined how poor oral health can increase the risk for systemic health problems that can impact the heart, brain, and joints. As more information emerges from studies, we begin to gain an even better understanding of just how interconnected every aspect of our bodies are with one another.

As a further example of this connection, a new study has found a connection between gum disease and a 14 percent increase in cancer risk among senior women, and a 12 percent increase in women who have never even smoked.

As part of the study, researchers examined the medical records of over 73,000 post-menopausal women who were enrolled in the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study.

A Risk Factor for Cancer

Gum disease has now been linked to a 14 percent increased risk for breast cancer. For women who smoke, studies have suggested their risk becomes even greater because of smoking’s effect on gum tissue.

Harmful compounds found in tar and nicotine irritate gum tissue, leading to more cases of gingivitis, an early stage of gum disease, in smokers when compared to those who don’t smoke.

Even among women that quit smoking sometime in the last 20 years, those with gum disease had a 36 percent higher risk of breast cancer when compared to women without gum disease.

Research has also discovered a connection between gum disease and other forms of cancer, including oral, head, neck, lung, and stomach cancers.

When discussing the role gum disease plays in increasing cancer risk, the most obvious question is how? How can what happens to our gums possibly impact the risk for cancer?

Oral pathogens have been found in pre-cancerous and cancerous lesions. While the exact mechanism behind how this occurs is still unknown, researchers believe that the bacteria may spread through our lungs as we breathe in or potentially through our stomachs as we swallow saliva.

Another theory states that oral bacteria may enter the bloodstream through the cracks that develop in gum tissue as part of early stage gum disease known as gingivitis. Once in the bloodstream, oral plaque can move throughout the body, causing inflammation to develop.

In addition to finding oral bacteria in cancerous cells, oral plaque has also been found in the heart valves of patients who have suffered from a heart attack.

A Healthy Mouth Means a Healthier Body

The mouth is part of our bodies, and it should not be overlooked when evaluating a patient’s overall health.

As a holistic dentist in Littleton, our team at the McGinty Dental Group recognizes this connection, as we do in the interconnectedness of all aspects of our health.

While dentists have long understood that periodontal disease leads to tooth loss, we now understand that maintaining the health of our patients’ teeth can also help them live better, healthier lives.

Fortunately, gum disease is both preventable and largely treatable when caught early. However, keeping a healthy mouth means practicing quality oral hygiene at home – brushing and flossing daily – along with scheduling regular exams and cleanings with your holistic dentist in Littleton.

The next time you think about canceling an appointment or skipping flossing, just remember that these small decisions could end up a very big deal.

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