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How Gum Disease Affects Your Cancer Risk

gum disease cancer
Published By Dr. Rachel Hall at 1 May, 2018

Did you know that gum disease bacteria affect your cancer risk? When you have gum disease bacteria from your mouth enters your blood, then contributes to diseases such as cancer.

The Mouth-Body Link

Bacteria in the mouth have long been known to cause various diseases in other parts of the body like heart diseasehigh blood pressure and pneumonia. While saliva may serve as the first line of defence against unwanted contaminants, some bacteria may be tougher to break down. A study from the Federal University of Santa Maria in Brazil found that gum disease caused by certain bacteria increases the risk of breast cancer in women by up to three times.

How Mouth Bacteria Spread to Your Body

Some bacteria cause bad breath, while others can cause inflammation in the mouth.

When these inflammation-causing bacteria to infiltrate the gums and cause gum disease, they may pose the risk of entering the circulatory system, and travelling to other parts of the body leading to illness and disease like cancer.

These bacteria cause periodontitis, a severe gum infection that damages soft tissues and destroys the teeth. Periodontitis can cause your gums to loosen up and result in tooth loss.

More worrying is that these bacteria can infect other soft tissues in the body such as breast tissue.

Gum Disease and Cancer Risk

The study, led by Dr Nigel Carter of the Oral Health Foundation, enlisted 201 women, 67 of which had breast cancer. Individual information was gathered, such as medical history and lifestyle habits, including smoking and alcohol consumption. All of the participants were evaluated for gum inflammation.

The findings of the study, published in the Journal of Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology, stated that women with severe gum infections were three times more likely to have breast cancer.

Dr Carter’s research is important because it creates another point of view in identifying the cause of diseases, in this case, starting in the mouth. The researchers involved in the study call for more studies to be done to be able to associate oral diseases with whole body diseases fully.

How To Make Sure Your Gums Are Not Making You Sick

It’s good to have pearly white teeth and fresh-smelling breath, but taking care of your mouth, teeth, and gums, may be more beneficial than you think. Practising good oral hygiene not only provides you with higher self-esteem but also helps prevent diseases such as breast cancer and heart disease.

Preventing oral diseases and infections is one of the easiest methods of keeping healthy. Here are some tips to guide you towards excellent oral health.

  • Book an appointment – Visit your dentist for a check-up. Dentists can help identify if you have infections or inflammation that need to be treated. Furthermore, you can also get hygiene care to remove tartar and plaque build-up on your teeth and inside your gums. This way, the bacteria that cannot be removed with a regular toothbrush may be eliminated.
  • Brush, brush, brush – Your mom always told you to brush your teeth at least two times a day. It may be a hassle at times, but you’ll benefit from it anyway. Make sure to use natural toothpaste as much as possible. Fluoride, which is found in almost all commercial toothpaste, is a health risk and must be avoided as much as possible. Also, replace your toothbrush every three to four months.
  • Don’t forget the tongue – Most people focus only on brushing the teeth, but don’t forget your gums and tongue too! No matter how much you scrub those pearly whites, bacteria may still reside on your tongue and in the crevices of your gums, so make sure to focus on those as well.
  • Strings attached – After brushing your teeth (and gums and tongue), get some floss and work your way in between those teeth. Toothbrush bristles are too thick to fit in between teeth and you’ll be leaving behind stubborn food debris from dinner.
  • Eat your fruits and vegetables – Fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins and minerals that keep disease-causing bacteria away. Citrus fruits, such as oranges and lemons are acidic and can disintegrate bacteria that your saliva can’t. Furthermore, the fibres in these fruits and vegetables help clean the surface of your teeth, your gums, and your tongue. Don’t forget an apple a day keeps the doctor at bay

Still, Don’t Want to Floss?

Flossing isn’t just for fighting cavities — as I said earlier it could help stave off cancer.

A study in The Lancet Oncology found that men with a history of the periodontal disease have a 14 percent higher risk of cancer than those who have healthy gums.

People with gum infections tend to have an increased amount of inflammation, and inflammation is thought to be a trigger for cancer to occur and take hold.

After taking into account other risk factors such as smoking and diet, the researchers found that men with a history of periodontal disease had an overall 14 percent higher risk of developing cancer compared with men did not have a history of the condition.

However, several cancers carried 30 percent or more risk – for example, people with a history of periodontal disease had a 36 percent increased risk of lung cancer, a 49 percent increased risk of getting kidney cancer, a 54 percent higher risk of pancreatic cancer and a 30 percent increased risk of white blood cell cancers.

These numbers are very alarming and hopefully enough of a reason for you to break out the floss and visit your dentist regularly. Call us today 07 3720 1811.

  • Dr. Rachel Hall

    Dr. Rachel Hall

    Rachel is the founder and principal dentist at Evolve Dental Healing with over 25 years experience, practicing holistically since 2001. Not your typical dentist, Rachel is a passionate opinion leader, challenging convention to empower people to make better dental and health choices, helping thousands to have healthy natural smiles. A respected writer and presenter on holistic dentistry, health and wellness it is Rachel’s mission to revolutionise the way people look at their dental health.

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