18 Jun Poor Dental health and the link to cancer
Is oral health even more important than we thought? Well, new research from Finland has pointed to a surprising link between gum disease and the development of some cancers. And even worse, it has been linked to the risk of cancer-related death.
Gum disease leads to bad breath, bleeding gums and, if left untreated long enough, cavities. Further ignoring of the issue can lead to receding gums and then tooth loss after plaque settles between teeth and under the gumline.
Dental hygiene has also been linked to other chronic health problems including heart disease, thought to be caused by inflammation passing from the gums into the bloodstream, although US researchers have recently suggested the link may be coincidental.
A diagnosis of cancer is something no one wants to hear but it is an unfortunate an unsettling part of many people’s lives. There have been amazing breakthroughs in the medical world surrounding cancer research and treatments, and we are becoming better and better at being able to detect and diagnose cancers in their earliest stages.
However, treatments would not be necessary if we mitigate the risk factors of cancer before it surfaces.
What can we do to limit our risk?
Before we talk about dental hygiene there are several lifestyle choices you can make to limit your risk of getting cancer:
- Quitting Smoking: the carcinogens from smoking are linked to various cancers. Quitting smoking can dramatically lower your risk of getting cancer.
- Limit Alcohol Consumption: carcinogens from alcohol offer the same risk as smoking, and limiting your consumption can lower your risk of cancer.
- Exercise: exercising the body has too many health benefits to list here, but a healthy body is better able to utilise natural defenses to potential health threats.
- Eat more greens: the nutrients and vitamins in vegetables will help your body remove harmful carcinogens from the body.
The link to dental health:
Besides the 4 reasons above, dental health is also a primary concern when it comes to pancreatic cancer. Researchers have long known of the link between poor dental health and conditions such as arthritis, heart disease, and pancreatic cancer.
However, it wasn’t until recently that scientists were able to confirm a direct link between oral bacteria and pancreatic cancer.
Researchers at the University of Helsinki and the Helsinki University Hospital, Finland, and the Karolinska Institutet, Sweden investigated the potential link between the bacteria that causes periodontitis and the onset of pancreatic cancer. The researchers came to the conclusion that the systemic inflammation that is related to the condition of periodontitis can actually cause oral bacteria to spread to other parts of the body.
“These studies have demonstrated for the first time that the virulence factors of the central pathogenic bacteria underlying gum disease are able to spread from the mouth to other parts of the body, most likely in conjunction with the bacteria, and take part in central mechanisms of tissue destruction related to cancer.” – Timo Sorsa
The Pancreatic Action Network reported in May 2017 that Dr. Ahn discovered two different types of bacteria in the mouth are connected to a 50% increased chance of pancreatic cancer. Researchers are unclear if those people with chronic inflammation are more prone to periodontal issues (which increases the risk of bacteria growth in the mouth) and are more likely to develop cancer, including pancreatic cancer.
Pancreatic cancer is very difficult to detect, and because of this it has one of the lowest survival rates. There are few ways to detect the early stages as sufferers show no symptoms and current methods are not affordable or reliable. This means that when pancreatic cancer is found, it has usually spread to other parts of the body. Cancer found in this advanced stage is often untreatable and has a very low survival rate.
This is why preventative measures are far better than treatment.
Limiting our risk through proper dental health:
It’s always been common sense knowledge to brush your teeth at least twice a day, clean interdentally daily, and keep up with regular dental check-ups. However, with the recent findings, it’s even more apparent how important it is to visit your dentist twice a year and take care of your pearly whites. It’s not just for your pearly whites, but for your overall health and it could even save your life.