Picking up where we left off with our last oral cancer blog post, it’s time to talk about one link between your oral health and cancer which you might not have realized.
In medical jargon, the word “comorbidity” is used to describe the presence of two (or more) diseases. Comorbid diseases can either be coincidental, or as a direct effect of one ore more other diseases.
When it comes to gum disease – also known as periodontal disease, or periodontitis – there is a growing body of scientific evidence to suggest some comorbidity between it and some forms of cancer, including oral cancer.
So if you haven’t been brushing or flossing as regularly as you normally do, and you are already noticing the signs of periodontitis, then you are already at a substantially higher risk for developing multiple types of cancer, according to researchers.
But let’s back up just a bit.
What Is Periodontitis?
Let’s assume you know nothing about gum disease, and that your gums are pink, firm, and healthy.
Not let’s say you’ve been neglecting to properly brush twice a day and floss before bedtime. In just a short amount of time – according to some research as little as 30 hours since the last time you cleaned your smile – the plaque which forms as a bacterial reaction to the leftover bits of food in your teeth will go into overdrive.
This bacteria, called spirochetes, will begin to rapidly multiply, produced acids as a byproduct of their sugar-feeding frenzy which can erode the natural, protective enamel of your teeth.
As more time passes, the bacteria – which are shaped like corkscrews – will begin to literally burrow deeper and deeper into the soft tissues of your gums, forming “pockets” which cause the gum line to recede and puff up. These are entire cities’ worth of spirochetes, and by this point, no amount of brushing or flossing will be able to reach them. They’re hunkered down for the long haul.
All the while, your gums will start to bleed whenever you get around to brushing them, and the spirochetes will attack and weaken the support structures which keep your teeth healthy and in their sockets. In other words, it is just a matter of time before you wind up losing one or more o your teeth.
Unfortunately, if you fail to seek treatment from your Birmingham dentist, then this will only be the beginning of a serious threat to your overall health.
An Elevated Cancer Risk
The link between cancer and bad habits like smoking has been known for years, but the data connecting gum disease and cancer is a relatively new area of study.
But the data that does exist is enough to take gum disease more seriously than you might be. Numerous studies have established links between advanced periodontitis and kidney cancer (49% chance); pancreatic cancer (54% chance); and blood cancers (30% chance), according to the American Academy of Periodontology.
Those aren’t the only types of cancers which have been linked to gum disease, however. There have been strong associations between periodontitis and certain types of head and neck cancers, as well as an increased chance of developing oral cancer.
Studies have examined the link between the plaque which usually leads to gum disease and how it can also mutate into cancerous or precancerous tissue. Other studies point to the link between smoking and drinking: It is theorized that people who smoke cigarettes and heavily drink alcohol are at greater risk for gum disease as well as cancer as a result of those habits.
But even if you are taking care of your gums, and seeing your dentist in Michigan twice a year like you should, you’re not completely out of the woods: A solid 25% of oral cancer diagnoses are made in people who don’t have any of those bad habits, which makes your periodontal health all the more important. Every little bit counts in the fight against cancer.
Take Care of Your Gums, And The Rest Will Follow
If you are suffering from gum disease, then you should know at this point why that’s not a good idea.
I can eliminate your gum disease with a painful, non-surgical periodontal disease treatment. A simple scaling and root planing procedure will eradicate those “pocket” bacterial colonies and allow your gums to fully heal. All it takes is one afternoon, and an appointment to make it happen.
To reduce your cancer risk as well as improve the health and appearance of your entire smile, call me at 248-972-8720 to schedule your gum disease treatment, as well as a quick oral cancer screening.
You can also request an appointment with us online; just fill out this web form and we will get back to you as soon as we can!