Periodontal Disease and Cancer: What You Need to Know

periodontal disease

Oral health is about more than a bright smile and pristine teeth and gums. Your oral health interacts with your overall health, often in surprising ways. For example, there’s a strong link between gum disease and many other ailments, as the bacteria behind gum disease make their way through the body and cause additional problems. Recently, research has found some quite serious problems that may be caused by periodontal disease: stomach and throat cancers. It’s an important health concern, so let’s take a moment and go over what the research says, and then discuss what it means for you. 

The Research on Periodontal Disease and Cancer

There’s a lot of data involved here, but we’ll try to present it as clearly and concisely as possible. In essence, a history of gum disease increases the individual’s odds of contracting stomach cancer by 52%, and of contracting throat cancer by 43%. Tooth loss is often a result of periodontal disease, and likewise there’s a correlation between people who have lost two or more teeth and these cancers–33% in the case of stomach cancer and 43% for throat cancers. A prominent researcher in the field summed it up thus: “Participants with periodontal disease and a higher number of teeth lost had a higher risk of developing the two gastrointestinal cancers, even after adjusting for other major risk factors” It’s a wakeup call from the research establishment as to how important this is to our collective health.

Part of what makes it so striking is the size and scope of the study: tens of thousands of cases were studied–98,000 women and more than 50,000 men–and up to 28 years of follow-up tracking in each case led to the results in question. It’s made more serious when we take into account the frequency of periodontal disease in the United States. It’s far more common than you might think: nearly half of all Americans over the age of 30 deal with some version of periodontal disease. For those over 65%, it’s above 80 percent. 

What You Can Do?

There is some good news in all of this: periodontal disease can be avoided, and in most cases treated if it does become an issue. As with a great many things in oral health, this is greatly dependent on personal habits. A regular brushing and flossing routine, carried out effectively every day, goes a long way towards preventing periodontal issues. Likewise, regular trips to your dentist for exams and cleanings have a strong preventative role to play in avoiding periodontal disease. Detecting problems before they get serious helps make the recovery process as easy as possible. By knowing the signs of periodontal disease, you’ll know when to seek further help in treating it. 

This blog isn’t meant to inspire fear, but rather awareness. You can reduce your risk of certain cancers and other health ailments by maintaining good oral health. Take that thought with you and make sure you’re doing right by your teeth and gums; your overall well being will thank you!