Could Gum Health Make You More Likely To Develop Cancer?

Posted on Jul 18, 2017 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

Periodontitis is commonly referred to as gum disease or periodontal disease. It begins with Gingivitis, which is an inflammation of the gums, typically due to inadequate oral hygiene. Periodontitis creates an infectious cauldron of bacteria that attacks the structures supporting your natural teeth.

According to research published by the National Institutes of Health (and the U.S. National Library of Medicine), evidence indicates that chronic infections and inflammation such as periodontal disease create an increased risk for developing some cancers. (

Along the same lines, there is considerable evidence that shows a relationship between bacterial and viral infections and cancer development. Because periodontitis is a bacterial infection, it has warranted more attention in recent decades as a source for other health problems.

For example, it has been determined that arthritis, an inflammation of the joints, and periodontal disease show similarities. When the tissues of both gum disease and RA are examined, their clinical structures are similar with the pathological processes being nearly identical.

Periodontitis creates a cycle that leads to the chronic release of inflammatory cytokines (a substance secreted by immune system cells that effect other cells), prostaglandins (designed to aid in tissue damage recovery), growth factors and enzymes. The combined reactions are closely associated with the development of cancer.

While all of this sounds very scientific and complex, it boils down to something that research has noted time and time again — the oral bacteria of gum disease can trigger harmful reactions elsewhere in the body.

The bacteria of gum disease can enter the bloodstream through weakened oral tissues. Once bloodborne, it can travel throughout the body and create systemic inflammation. Research has already found links between the inflammatory triggers of gum disease and heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, preterm babies, diabetes, arthritis, erectile dysfunction and impotency.

There has also been research to support a correlation between periodontitis and pancreatic cancer, lung cancer and prostrate cancer. While more research is needed to pinpoint the cause-&-effect, the connection with oral bacteria and the chronic inflammation that can result is established.

Although over 47 percent of American adults have some level of periodontal disease, more education is needed so a stronger proactive stance can be taken. In addition to twice daily brushing and daily flossing, a particular caution should go out to denture and partial wearers. Why?

These appliances can become loose over time due to bone loss that occurs when tooth roots are no longer present in the jaw bone. They can rub sore spots on tender gum tissues in an attempt to chew, which increases susceptibility to gum inflammation.

One of the reasons we are strong proponents of dental implants is their ability to halt bone loss by recreating the presence of missing tooth roots. Additionally, they do not move when eating or speaking, eliminating the possibility of sore spots.

Your oral health is an important component of your overall health. Think of your mouth as the front door to your body. By keeping a healthy smile, your overall health will benefit. And the time and expense to have excellent gum health is so little! Just minutes per day and twice a year visits to your dentist should help you enjoy all the benefits of a clean, fresh smile!

If you’ve fallen behind on dental visits or suspect you have gum disease, begin with a thorough examination by a Periodontist. A Periodontist specializes in gum health and is the expert in treating all levels of gum disease.

Signs of gum disease include sore or bleeding gums (including seeing blood in the sink when brushing), swollen gums, gums that turn red in color, persistent bad breath, pus pockets on gums, gums that recede from teeth, and teeth that eventually loosen.

Remember — gum disease is the leading cause of adult tooth loss. It will only worsen without treatment. Please see a periodontal specialist promptly if you’re experiencing any of these signs. Your entire body will benefit through your commitment to having health gums!

Call 828-274-9440.

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