Failing to care for your pearly whites will almost always land you in the dentist’s chair. But did you know that poor oral health can lead to other medical issues? It seems that there is always new research connecting poor oral health with overall health problems. Keeping your teeth clean and healthy is important for your dental and overall health, but gum health is equally –– if not more –– important. That’s because gum disease has been linked to some scary non-dental medical issues like diabetes, strokes, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s. Even more recently, gum disease has also been linked to cancer. Read on to learn about the connection between cancer and gum disease, and how we can help you with prevention and treatment for gum disease.
Cancer and Gum Disease
Over the last few years, academic research has explored the connection between gum disease and cancer. A 2017 study of 66,000 women found that those who had a history of gum disease were at a higher risk for cancer of the lungs, breasts, gallbladder, esophagus, and melanoma. Similarly, a 2018 study found that the same bacteria that cause gum disease and periodontitis may also be the cause of some cancers, specifically pancreatic.
Most recently, a study from Harvard summarized in a letter published in 2020 suggests that the microbes between your teeth and gums may affect your risk for cancers of the stomach and esophagus. Harvard scientists analyzed health data from two large studies that included almost 150,000 men and women.
After following participants for 28 years, researchers found that people with a history of gum disease were 43% more likely to develop esophageal cancer and 52% more likely to develop stomach cancer compared with people whose gums were healthier. The risk was even higher in those with gum disease severe enough to cause tooth loss. The study is observational and doesn’t prove that gum disease causes cancer, but it does show us that caring for our oral health is important for our overall health.
Treatment for Gum Disease
Gum disease, otherwise known as gingivitis, is a fairly common condition. If caught early enough, treatment for gum disease can be as simple as implementing a more strict brushing and flossing routine. However, letting gingivitis go untreated could invite the development of periodontitis, which can eventually lead to tooth and even bone loss.
Gum disease treatments range from non-invasive to invasive. Your dentist may start by recommending more frequent dental cleanings at his or her office. As the disease advances, so do the treatment options. Your dentist might recommend a “deep cleaning” process called scaling and root planing. Unfortunately, surgery and bone grafts might be necessary to treat advanced cases of periodontal disease.
If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms of gingivitis or periodontitis, please contact your general dentist for a checkup and a cleaning. Catching gum disease early is the best way to reverse the damage done to your teeth and gums.
Preventing Gum Disease
Remember that prevention is every bit as important as treatment. Keeping up with good dental hygiene habits –– like brushing and flossing twice per day –– and seeing your general dentist for regular cleanings and checkups is key.
While no study has been able to conclusively link gum disease to cancer, it’s still a good idea to avoid gum disease if you can. Luckily, gingivitis and gum disease can be prevented with good oral health. Below are a few ways to make sure you keep your gum tissue healthy:
- Brush your teeth and gums at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste
- Floss your teeth at least once each day
- Regularly rinse your mouth with ADA approved mouthwash
- Visit your regular dentist every six months for a dental cleaning and exam
Here at Endodontic Specialists of Colorado, we believe your dental health is just as important as your overall health. That’s why our team of specialized doctors does every they can to restore your smile and relieve your pain. Contact us today to schedule an evaluation and learn how we can help give you a healthy, beautiful smile!