According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 47 percent of U.S. adults over the age of 30 have some level of gum disease. This percentage increases with age, with over 70 percent of adults over 65 having the disease.
Although periodontitis, or advanced gum disease, is the nation’s leading cause of adult tooth loss, researchers are delving into the harmful effects of the bacteria of gum disease, including links to the development of cancer.
In newly shared information by eCancer News (www.eCancer.org), recent studies have added further weight to the link between periodontitis and overall cancer risk. One study indicates that periodontitis, advanced gum disease, was associated with a 24 percent increased risk. (https://ecancer.org/news/13173-evidence-mounts-of-link-between-severe-gum-disease-and-various-cancers.php)
Of particular interest of late has been the association between oral bacteria of periodontitis and pancreatic cancer. While pancreatic cancer accounts for just 3 percent of all cancers in the U.S., the five year survival rate is only about 5 percent. (https://www.cancer.org/cancer/pancreatic-cancer.html)
Research now suggests that this potent oral bacteria may have a role in the development of pancreatic cancer. (https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/01/180116093603.htm)
Scandinavian researchers at the Helsinki University Hospital and University of Helsinki, Finland, along with the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden have been studying how the oral bacteria of advanced gum disease correlates to certain cancers.
Their most recent findings, published by the British Journal of Cancer, has shown an association with the bacteria of periodontitis and the formation of pancreatic cancer by triggering a reaction that can lead to its onset. They also found that the bacteria affects the production of certain enzymes, which can lower the effectiveness of the immune system.
This follows an earlier study that tracked 68,273 adults for a ten year period. The periodontal status of each was evaluated, with adjustments being made for age, sex, socio‐economic status, oral health, dental treatments and the presence of diabetes.
During the 10 year follow-up, 797 cancer deaths occurred, providing a cancer mortality rate of 11.36 per 10,000 for participants with and without periodontitis. However, the cancer rates for participants with periodontitis showed a higher risk overall for developing cancer, with even higher rates for developing pancreatic cancer.
The researchers felt the results of the study showed that advanced gum disease is clearly linked with the development of cancer, especially pancreatic cancer. As with other studies, these results demonstrate that the infectious bacteria of gum disease are able to spread from the mouth to other parts of the body and activate mechanisms of tissue destruction that relate to cancer.
There is no better time to ensure your gums are healthy than now. In addition to having a healthy mouth and protecting your teeth, good periodontal health obviously correlates to your overall health. As a matter of fact, diabetics are encouraged to maintain healthy gums, which helps keep blood sugar levels under control. (https://www.ada.org/~/media/ADA/Publications/Files/FTDP_July2013_2.pdf?la=en)
Having healthy teeth and gums requires more diligence than merely brushing twice a day and flossing daily. It is necessary to have regular dental checkups and cleanings to remove built up tartar. Tartar (or ‘calculus’) is a hardened form of plaque. It destroys healthy gum tissues and bores into tooth enamel. As the bacteria accumulate, gum disease can develop.
Symptoms of gum disease are:
• tender gums that may be swollen in certain areas
• seeing blood in the sink when brushing teeth
• frequent bad breath
• gums that turn darker in color, to red versus a healthy pink
• gums that pull away from teeth (recession)
• pus pockets that form on teeth
However, gum disease begins silently. Early gum disease may not cause any obvious symptoms. Too, many people are not aware of the symptoms of gum disease and tend to ignore initial warning signs. This simply allows gum disease to worsen.