Posted on October 9, 2018
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and here at Lake Baldwin Dental we are all about reducing risk factors and supporting the fight against cancer. What many people may not realize is how important oral health is in achieving both of those goals.
The links between oral pathogens and whole-body health have been studied for decades, but the link between gum disease and cancers of all kinds is especially compelling. According to a study from the University of Buffalo, women with periodontal disease are 14% more likely to develop breast cancer. In smokers or past smokers, the associated risk between perio disease and breast cancer skyrockets to about 36%. In addition, periodontal bacteria have actually been found inside breast tumors.
There are several theories which may explain these links. One potential explanation is that oral pathogens release carcinogenic toxins into the blood stream. We are aware of several byproducts of bacterial metabolism such as nitrosamines which have been proven as carcinogens. While these relationships need to be studied further, there seems to be some highly plausible evidence pointing to a direct link between periodontal bacteria and cancer. However, there is likely also an indirect relationship as well: gum disease causes inflammation. Your immune system kicks in and releases inflammatory markers which then travel through the blood system to all regions of the body. There is a known link between chronic inflammation and increase cancer risks. Again, this link is not irrefutably proven yet, but the evidence is strong.
Whether or not a person has periodontal disease, they may develop cancer in their lifetime and at that point, oral health should become an essential focus of their recovery. Cancer treatments as they currently exist come with a slew of side effects, many of which center on the tissues of the oral cavity. Chemotherapy in particular can wreak havoc on oral health (https://www.lakebaldwindental.com/blog/2015-10-20-october-breast-cancer-…). From an altered sense of taste to nausea, vomiting, sores in the mouth, and thrush, chemo is rough on the body and creates a ton of discomfort. Likewise, radiation treatment is associated with rampant cavities and dry mouth among other side effects.
The good news is, your dental team is here for you. We have an arsenal of products and techniques to strengthen the teeth and protect soft tissues, including comforting mouth wash and Fluoride treatments. If you or someone you love is diagnosed with any cancer, a visit to the dentist may be a great plan before treatment begins. Early intervention can protect against some of the damage and also offer drastically better comfort during the battle against cancer. Keep fighting, Orlando!
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