Good oral hygiene habits and regular professional dental care are important for preventing tooth decay, gum disease and bad breath, but researchers are also finding surprising links between oral care and certain cancers.
Dental Care and Cancer
Links between gum disease and pancreatic cancer were first noted by a research team lead by Dr. Dominique Michaud from Harvard School of Public Health in Boston. Dr. Michaud’s study used data collected from over 51,000 men in 1986. With this data, the research team was able to demonstrate a 64 per cent increase in the risk of pancreatic cancer in men with a history of periodontal (gum) disease.
Further studies have shown increase risk factors associated with the persistent inflammation that results from periodontal disease and tooth loss. Inflammation is know to be a factor in virtually every serious illness, including cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s.
While further research is needed to discover the precise cause of the correlation between cancer and gum disease, it is known that poor oral health can result in harmful bacteria entering the blood stream through the inflamed gum tissue. Once this bacteria enters the blood stream, the body’s immune response causes the liver to produce C-reactive proteins (CRP). CRP has an inflammatory effect on the arteries, causing damage and allowing the formation of harmful plaque inside the linings of the vessels. Left unchecked, this process can have a serious, detrimental health effect.
To help prevent illness caused by gum disease follow these steps.
- Be sure to brush and floss regularly, while avoiding harsh alcohol based mouthwashes that can dry out the mouth and disrupt important and helpful bacteria.
- See your dentist for a regular cleaning and checkup. Prevention is key to maintaining good oral health. A thorough dental cleaning every 6 months will help prevent dental problems from occurring and allow any issues that occur to be treated early, before they worsen.
- Maintain a healthy diet and exercise. Diet and exercise are the most important factors in maintaining a healthy body. A strong immune and circulatory system plays an important role in maintaining good oral health.