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Gum Disease and Cancer

The damaging effects of periodontal diseases have been widely studied and linked to many illnesses not commonly associated with the mouth. Periodontal disease has been tied to everything from diabetes to Alzheimer’s disease, with the main culprit being the bacteria that infiltrate the gum line and cause periodontal diseases such as gingivitis and periodontitis. But now, a new study has tied periodontitis to several types of cancer.

The study was conducted by Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health on a total of 98,459 women from the Nurses’ Health Study and 49,685 men in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study. Researchers found that patients who had previously reported having periodontal disease had a 43 percent higher risk of esophageal cancer and a 52 percent higher risk of gastric cancer than those who did not report having periodontal disease.

The study also found that those missing two or more teeth had a higher risk of developing esophageal (42 percent higher) and gastric cancer (33 percent higher).

So, what do researchers believe is behind this increase in cancers exactly? Once again signs point to the invasive bacteria that cause gum disease, including tannerella forsythia and porphyromonas gingivalis. Another possible cause is what are described in the study as “endogenous nitrosamines,” which could cause gastric cancer by way of nitrate-reducing bacteria.

The bad news is the study did not say how long patients would need to have periodontal disease for this risk to increase, or how severe a case of periodontal disease they’d need to have for this increased risk to occur. However, there are steps you can take now to reduce your periodontal disease risk and even eliminate this condition if you already have it. Whether this will reduce your esophageal or gastric cancer risk is unknown, but it can’t hurt to try!

If you do have periodontal disease, speak to Dr. Peterson about treatment. Often a deep cleaning of the gums can help clear out this condition and get your gums back to good health. Sometimes more serious intervention is needed, but with proper diagnosis and treatment you can prevent a lot of pain and illness down the road.

If your gums are red and puffy, or bleed when you brush and floss, call Dr. Peterson’s office and schedule a consultation. We can be reached at 435-565-6503.

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Posted in: Dental Health, Oral Health, Periodontal Disease

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1840 Sun Peak Dr., #B101, Park City, UT 84098

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