Inflammation: The Key That Links Oral Health to Cancer Risk

Inflammation: The Key That Links Oral Health to Cancer Risk

At our SW Portland dentist office, Dr. Beadnell strives to inform patients about the connection that exists between our oral health and our overall health. While you might think that quality dental care only relates to the health of our teeth and gums, studies have actually found surprising connections between dental decay and disease and a range of chronic health conditions.

Earlier this year, a study published in the Journal of Cancer Epidemiology found that women who suffered from gum disease are 14 percent more likely to develop cancer when compared to women with healthy gums. The study, which included data collected on over 65,000 women between the ages of 54 to 86, found strong connections between gum disease and a number of cancers, including skin, gallbladder, lung, throat, and breast cancer.

Just a few years ago, a letter published in the Journal of Pharmacy and Bioallied Sciences explored the current research and found a similar connection between cancer and oral health in a variety of studies. According to the review, “periodontal disease is associated with an increased production of reactive oxygen species which, if not buffered sufficiently, cause damage to the host cells and tissues.” The oral inflammation that occurs as a result of periodontal disease then moves into the bloodstream, where it can move throughout the body and increase the risk of cancer.

What these and other studies suggest is that if you suffer from poor oral health, your risk of cancer will increase. So how can you judge the current state of your oral health? Simple. Understand the warning signs and schedule regular exams at our SW Portland dentist office.

The Risk of Gum Disease

Gum disease, also referred to as periodontal disease, is caused by a buildup of plaque on the surface of our teeth and along the gum line. Plaque, which consists of bacterial colonies that stick to the porous surface of our teeth, builds up over time and can eventually cause the development of inflammation.

As this inflammation begins to spread, gingivitis develops as the gums start to bleed easily and become swollen. If left untreated, gingivitis causes gum recession, which allows more food and foreign substances to lodge in the oral cavities of the mouth. This sets in motion a cycle of inflammation and infection that soon causes problems for the body as a whole.

The gum disease can increase the risk of cancer makes sense when you consider that the mouth is actually home to a wide variety of microscopic organisms. Normally, this diverse microbiome works to help keep the body in a healthy state. The collection of bacteria works together to breakdown food and act as a first line of defense against infection.

Additionally, everything that happens in the mouth connects with the rest of the body in some capacity. So when something goes wrong in the mouth, including the inflammation caused by gum disease, the rest of the body suffers. With an increased rise of inflammation, the healthy balance off good and bad bacteria in the body is disrupted, favoring those microbes that flourish in an unhealthy environment. These microbes than further contribute to the development of inflammation, producing toxic byproducts that then travel throughout the body, causing inflammation wherever they go.

Protecting Your Oral Health

Fortunately, you can spot the early signs of inflammation if you know what to look for. As inflammation begins, especially with the onset of gingivitis, your gums will begin to look red, swollen, and feel sore. They will also bleed easily, especially after brushing and flossing.

By scheduling regular exams with Dr. Beadnell at our SW Portland dentist office, you can successfully lower your risk of gum disease and cancer. With regular exams, Dr. Beadnell can spot the signs of gingivitis early on while still easily treatable.

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