According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about half of all adults have gum disease. Despite the commonality of the condition, its seriousness shouldn’t be underestimated. Some studies have shown that fatty acids from the bacteria present in gum disease might lead to the growth of oral cancer.
Bacteria and Oral Cancer Links
The study that showed the link was conducted by Case Western Reserve University. Study participants with gum disease tended to have high levels of the bacteria Porphyromonas gingivalis and Fusobacterium nucleatum in their saliva. The fatty acids that these bacteria produce were shown to prevent the body from stopping the growth of Kaposi’s sarcoma tumors and lesions.
How the Study Findings May Help with Early Diagnosis
While the study findings may sound like bad news for those with gum disease, there’s actually a silver lining. It’s completely possible to test the saliva for the bacteria Porphyromonas gingivalis and Fusobacterium nucleatum. If these bacteria are identified, dentists and doctors can monitor patients for signs of oral cancer and start treatment before malignancies are detected.
Other Diseases Linked to Gum Disease
Oral cancer is not the only disease linked to gum cancer. The risks of developing diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and pulmonary disease increase when gum disease is present. For expectant mothers, the risk of having a baby that is below the average birth weight is also increased.
The risks of developing other types of cancers such as lung cancer, pancreatic cancer, and esophageal cancer all increase for patients diagnosed with gum disease, too.
Preventing Gum Disease
Of course, preventing gum disease in the first place is much better than trying to mitigate the risk factors for developing worse conditions later. Seeing a dentist regularly and following recommended treatment plans can help to prevent gum disease and catch it in early stages, while it is still reversible. Procedures like scaling and root planning help to remove tartar and keep the gums healthy.
Prevention at Home
Good oral hygiene habits like brushing at least twice a day and flossing everyday can help to remove plaque and keep gum disease at bay. Eating healthy and staying away from tobacco can also have a positive impact on gum health. Be aware that certain medications like antidepressants and oral contraceptives can also affect gum health and aggravate existing gum disease.
To schedule your dental cleaning and check-up, call Eagle Harbor Dental today and take charge of your tooth and gum health.