Many oral diseases, such as periodontal disease, originate from the growth of oral bacteria along the tooth surfaces, also known as plaque. Gum disease occurs when the bacteria along the enamel get in between the gums and into the bloodstream, causing inflammation, swelling, bleeding, and deep-set pockets between the teeth. Because of the constant collection of bacteria within the gums, gum disease is a highly progressive disease that’s often difficult to remove. In severe cases, it requires a periodontist to clean and treat.
However, some studies have begun to show various links between periodontal disease and other severe health conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, and dementia. In individual cases, periodontal disease has been linked to cancer, specifically pancreatic, oral, gastric, and lung cancer. With chronic inflammation acting as the connecting point between these two diseases, here’s what studies say about the connection between periodontal disease and cancer.
Types of Cancer and Periodontal Disease
According to studies performed at universities, conducted through journals, and reviews from widespread organizations across the U.S, there have been some connections made between periodontal disease and cancer. Those connections include:
- Pancreatic Cancer: Pancreatic cancer is known as the fourth cause of death by cancer in the U.S. alone – studies conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute have shown a 63% higher risk for pancreatic cancer in men. This study showed that out of the total 216 cancer of pancreatic cancer, about 67 of those people also reported having periodontal disease. Other studies have also connected the two conditions with smoking, as smoking decreases the healing rate for periodontal disease and potentially leads to tooth loss.
- Oral Cancer: According to the Hopkins University of Medicine, reports from the Journal of National Cancer Institute have shown a correlation between periodontal disease, tooth loss, and oral cancer. Chronic trauma from tooth loss can irritate the oral mucosa membrane, playing a role in cancer formation. Studies have reported that those who had severe periodontal disease had a 24% increase in the risk of developing oral cancer than seen in those with mild to no periodontal disease.
- Lung Cancer: In the same study, those with severe periodontal disease had the highest risk of developing lung cancer. Lung cancer and periodontal disease have been linked to smoking, as smoking increases lung cancer risk significantly. Some researchers speculate that because the bacteria from periodontal disease goes directly into the lungs, it causes an inflammatory response and could increase the risk of carcinogenesis.
- Gastric Cancer: While periodontal disease and gastric cancer have fewer studies associated with one another, a study conducted in Japan reported a two-fold increase in gastric cancer if you have lost ten or more teeth. It is also believed that the periodontal bacteria that occurs with gum disease spreads from the mouth to the lungs and then to the colon.
While the link between periodontal disease and cancer is strong, researchers must continue studying the effects of periodontal disease on the body and encourage people to seek treatment. Considering the abundance of research linking oral health to other health conditions elsewhere in the body, it seems likely that this connection will continue to be affirmed.
What Other Health Conditions Show Ties To Oral Health?
The connection that exists between our dental health and overall health is typified by the inflammation infection can cause. Those with poor oral health, specifically periodontal disease, have higher instances of heart disease, nearly 70% higher. Diabetes is not caused by oral health concerns, but blood sugar levels have been shown to be more difficult to control in patients who have periodontal disease. These are just a couple of health concerns affected by your oral health. Others include:
- Hypertension: Gum disease has been shown to have deleterious effects on blood pressure and can directly interfere with how effective the medication used for treating high blood pressure can be.
- Glaucoma: In certain cases, oral health concerns have led to a cascade effect that results in the development of glaucoma. This happens most often when oral infections spread to the optic nerve.
- Low Birth Weight: Women who have poor oral health and are pregnant have shown a 700% increase in the likelihood of low birth weight and preterm births.
- Arthritis: The inflammation caused by periodontal disease can lead to an increased risk of arthritis and inflammatory responses that are connected to arthritis.
Taking care of your oral health has broad-reaching implications for your lifelong whole-body health, which is just one more reason to ensure you schedule regular dental visits throughout the year. To get started or for more information on how to care for your teeth if you have periodontal disease, contact Dr. Chris and Kristie Vinson at Tulsa Precision Dental in Tulsa, OK, today.