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Gum Disease Related to Cancer and Heart Disease

  • Published: 2011-03-02 : Author: Allan Melnick DDS
  • Synopsis: Gum disease should be added to the list of factors that increase your risk of cancer and heart disease.

Main Document

New studies show that gum disease is related to cancer, heart disease and other diseases. Gum disease represents a public health concern. The public needs to know that having their gums in good health is very important to a body free of illness.

It is now clear that gum disease should be added to the list of factors that increase your risk of cancer and heart disease. Dental patients with moderate forms of gum disease have an overall 14% increased risk of developing cancer according to a recent British-American report.

"People who have been avoiding going to the dentist may want to give their avoidance a second thought," stated Dr. Allan Melnick on his website www.FocusedCareDental.com. It isn't a surprise that most people don't like going to the dentist. In fact only about 40% of Americans see their dentist each year. That could be a big mistake.

According to a recent research report in the highly respected journal Lancet Oncology, cancer risk increases when gum disease is present. In addition, when gums disease is present, the risk of heart disease, diabetes, liver disease, and blood diseases are also increased. With the latest findings there is now evidence to add the risk of cancer to the list of gum disease related illnesses.

Researchers found that if you have gum disease, the normal act of brushing your teeth or chewing allows bacteria to enter your blood stream. The blood stream then carries throughout the body the oral bacteria and toxins associated with them.

These infections can trigger the immune system. The liver then produces chemicals called C-reactive proteins (CRP). Oral infections, especially gum infections, can be the cause of these increased levels of infection indicating proteins.

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 line the coronary arteries and then increase the plaque build up in these arteries which are critical to heart function. They can also cause blood clots to form in the coronary arteries.

Research has also been done on the factors related to pancreatic cancer. Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. One long established risk factor for pancreatic cancer is smoking. Researchers from Harvard School of Public Health and the Dana-Farber Cancer institute found gum disease was also associated with an increased risk.

The team published an article in The Journal of the National Cancer Institute in January 2007. The study found that after adjusting for all factors, men with advanced gum disease had a 33% greater chance of developing pancreatic cancer. The researchers did agree that further studies in order.

English and American researchers have found in their study that gum disease is linked not only to pancreatic cancer but to a higher chance of lung, kidney and blood cancers in smokers and non-smokers. A team at Imperial College London and Harvard studied the statistical health records of 50,000 men. The data was collected over 21 years.

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 increase in head and neck cancer.

The search for a precise connection goes on but it is thought that long lasting 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.

It was always noted by the researchers that further studies are needed to confirm the newest statistical data. There are some noted researchers such as Dr. Phillip Preshaw of Newcastle University that felt the findings are not yet conclusive and that more data is needed. Prominent British researcher Dr. Sir Muir Gray stated that correlation does not equal causation.

Encino Dentist Dr. Allan Melnick, a well-known author, researcher and clinician said in a recent interview on the subject "I tell my patients the facts as best I know them, but in the end it is up to them, but I do worry when I look at the data. I have a wealth of information on my blog at www.FocusedCareDental.com/blog. I only wish people would read it more. In particular, the parts on gum disease and oral cancer could save their lives."

So while the data is not proof positive a warning flag has been raised. Although few people like going to the dentist, it appears that regular dental care is more important than ever - www.FocusedCareDental.com

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