Karl A. Smith, DDS, LLC
601 Post Office Road
Waldorf, MD 20602
Karl A. Smith, DDS, LLC
2500 N. Van Dorn Street
Alexandria, VA 22302
Cancer and Periodontal Disease
Can a dental exam save your life? Research shows only about 40% of Americans see their dentist each year. Regular dental appointments are strongly encouraged so that your dentist may look for any unhealthy conditions and catch them before they become big problems with big costs.
Loss of teeth and increased cost of dental procedures are not the only reasons to see a dentist today. It is now clear that gum disease should be added to the list of factors that cause unhealthy body conditions. There is an extremely high risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, liver disease, blood diseases, heart attack, and stroke. With the latest research there is now evidence to add cancer to the list of gum disease related illnesses.
Dental patients with moderate forms of gum disease have an overall 14% increased risk of developing cancer according to recent studies.
If you have any form of gum disease, the normal act of brushing your teeth or chewing allows bacteria to enter your blood stream. The blood stream then carries the bacteria throughout the body.
The first studies of the effects of gum disease on the body were related to heart disease. With gum disease present the oral bacteria can attach themselves to the plaque that lines the coronary arteries causing build-up in these arteries, which are critical to heart function. They can also cause blood clots to form in the coronary arteries or brain leading to a heart attack or stroke.
Studies have also found that gum disease is linked to a higher chance of pancreatic, lung, kidney and blood cancers in both smokers and non-smokers. There was a 33% increase in the risk of lung cancer.
There was a 50% rise in the chance of kidney cancer and a 38% rise in pancreatic cancer. Blood cancers such as leukemia rose by 30% among men with gum disease. In another study it was found that for each millimeter of bone loss in chronic periodontitis, a serious form of gum disease, there was a four times the increase in head and neck cancer.
Searching for a precise connection goes on and will hopefully one day lead us to a cure but for now it is thought that untreated gum disease can trigger a substantial reduction in the immune response and cause damage to the immune system. This in turn makes it easier for the cancer to grow. It is also possible that the bacteria from the gum disease could be directly causing the cancer themselves. Further studies will be done in the coming months and years.
What can be done today? See a periodontist. A periodontist is a special dentist that can determine your level of periodontal disease and help determine your risk factors. A referral is not required. Patients with a recent cancer diagnosis should see a periodontist prior to starting chemotherapy or radiation. They can help catch and treat these bacteria early to lower your risk in later years. Call a periodontist today and set up a complete periodontal evaluation. It just might save your life.