Gum Disease & Cancer: What’s the Connection?

Our oral health may be more important to overall well-being than ever before imagined. The bacteria that cause gingivitis, a mild gum disease, are allowed to thrive due to poor oral hygiene. Gingivitis can lead to inflammation and periodontal disease, such as periodontitis, a loss of bone and potentially teeth. In addition, studies are now showing links to certain types of cancer. Oral cancer is certainly one, but there are other cancers the study deals with that affect other parts of the body. Could your oral hygiene save your life?

Cancer, that terrifying word, can cause us to grip our floss in fear (and with good reason). It’s true that some individuals make all the right health choices and are still stricken by a cancer diagnosis. Nonetheless, preventive health measures, such as not smoking, eating a healthy diet, and exercising, can reduce the risk of disease. If you haven’t already, you should add oral hygiene to the list of potential cancer prevention measures you take.

It should be noted that no official studies have been released stating that gingivitis or periodontal disease like periodontitis actually cause cancer. However, a new study originating in Finland has found links between the enzymes found in gum disease being linked to certain types of cancer and increased risk factors. In particular, they suspect links to pancreatic cancer – one of the deadliest cancers of all. Pancreatic cancer has a 20% survival rate in just one year, and only a 7% survival rate in five years. It is not a risk anyone wants to take.

Additionally, some early study findings show links between gum disease and lung cancer. Though the findings connecting gum disease and cancer are new and still being researched, they should be a great motivator to take charge of your oral health.

Though these findings are alarming, it’s fortunate that improving the habits that impact oral health is easy! The risk of gum disease can be easily lessened with small daily routines. Here are a few excellent rules to live by:

  •    Brush your teeth two times a day and after meals when possible.
  •    Floss every day.
  •    Visit your dentist twice a year.
  •    Have dental x-rays regularly as recommended by your dentist.
  •    Rinse thoroughly with an American Dental Association (ADA) approved mouthwash every day and night.

In addition to these wise oral hygiene habits, it’s important to know your body, any risks of cancer you may be predisposed to, and any disease you have an increased risk of inheriting. Consult your dentist for further tips on oral hygiene and periodontal disease prevention. Your oral health can have a huge impact on your overall health – help your whole body by taking it seriously every day!

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