As regular readers of our City Dental blog know, there exists a growing amount of research that suggests our oral health has a significant impact on our overall health. From heart disease and stroke to diabetes and dementia, studies have found that individuals who suffer from tooth decay, gum disease, and tooth loss have an increased risk for a variety of serious health problems.
Now a new study further grows that connection, as gum infections may increase an individual’s risk for sores in the digestive tract that can lead to the development of stomach cancer. While daily brushing and flossing, along with scheduling regular exams with Drs. Bajuscak and Lively, can help to prevent gingivitis – an early form of gum disease – untreated cases of the disease can lead to permanent damage to the bone structure and gum tissue that holds our teeth into place.
Researchers from the New York City University College of Dentistry focused on the role gum disease – a chronic infection in the mouth caused by plaque buildup – plays in increasing cancer rates.
A New Discovery
As part of their study, researchers examined 35 individuals with precancerous lesions: sores or abnormal cells in the digestive tract where cancer is more likely to develop when compared to healthy tissue. Researchers also examined a control group of 70 participants of a similar age and medical background who showed no signs of lesions.
In total, researchers found 32 percent of participants with precancerous gastric lesions had the type of bleeding during dental exams that shows signs of gum disease, compared with 22 percent of participants without the precancerous lesions.
Participants with gastric precancerous lesions were also more likely to develop high levels of oral bacteria most responsible for gum disease.
“These bacteria are commonly found in periodontal pockets and are invasive because they can produce a variety of molecules that can cause damage to host tissue as well as host responses to bacterial colonization, therefore contributing to cancer development,” wrote researchers.
“The periodontal pockets are not easily accessible by a regular toothbrush and could serve as a reservoir for bacterial colonization and potentially a source of chronic inflammation and carcinogenic bacterial growth.”
Expanding Our Understanding of Cancer
Previously, the majority of gastric cancers have been linked to eating foods high in salt and preservatives and smoking, noted researchers when detailing the results of their study in the Journal of Periodontology. Additional research has also previously linked oral health to gastric tumors as well.
While the study wasn’t a controlled experiment designed to conclusively prove whether poor oral health directly leads to the developed of cancer, the findings presented by researchers add additional support to the growing body of evidence that suggests gum disease may play a role in the development of stomach cancer.
Researchers believe that inflammation may play a pivotal role in what links oral health to cancer risk. Gum disease may cause inflammation to develop not only in the mouth, but throughout the body as well. Some oral bacteria may even travel from the mouth to the gastrointestinal track.
At City Dental, We Help Protect Your Health
While a connection linking oral health with cancer risk has yet to be clearly established by researchers, the evidence collected so far suggests that we can no longer take our teeth and gums for granted. To ensure you enjoy a healthy smile for a lifetime, it’s vital to schedule regular exams with our team at City Dental.
Only by giving our oral health the attention it deserves can we help to lower our risk for diseases like cancer and heart disease, while enjoying the high quality of life we’ve come to appreciate. A great looking smile means a lot, now and into the future.