Can Gum Disease Cause Cancer?

December 10, 2019 Published by Leave your thoughts
Artistic depiction showing the stages of gum or periodontal disease

Gum disease is surprisingly common in adults and while it can be easily reversed when caught early on, there is evidence to suggest a link between gum disease and cancer. Your oral health and overall health are very closely connected, so caring for your teeth and gums is very important.

What Is Gum Disease?

When you have a lot of plaque and tartar on your teeth, that means there’s lots of bacteria, as well. Tartar can only be removed during regular cleanings and exams with a dentist like Dr. Bobo or Dr. Riley here at Oakboro Family Dentistry. If teeth aren’t cleaned well, bacteria causes inflammation of your gums, which is called gingivitis. Most of the time, gingivitis can be reversed with better oral hygiene habits. However, if it isn’t dealt with, it gets worse and progresses to periodontitis. This stage actually damages the supporting structures of your teeth. Your gums begin to pull away from your teeth, forming pockets where bacteria can build up even more. Periodontitis is the most common reason for adult tooth loss. Symptoms of gum disease include swollen and painful gums, bleeding when you floss, constant bad breath, loose teeth, and painful chewing.

Does Gum Disease Cause Cancer?

Studies have shown a link between gum disease and certain types of cancer, such as head and neck cancer. Researchers aren’t 100% sure why, but gum disease could be a risk factor for cancer because of inflammation. When gum disease progresses to periodontitis, there’s significant inflammation in the mouth which can lead to the birth of cancer-causing chemicals and oxidative free radicals. This doesn’t mean that if you have gum disease, you’re destined to get cancer. It does increase your risk, however. Researchers just aren’t quite sure why because there are also other factors at play.

What You Can Do to Avoid Gum Disease

To maintain healthy teeth and gums, brush at least twice a day and floss once a day. Check out our blog post on correct flossing techniques. Visit us at Oakboro Family Dentistry at least twice a year. We want to be able to catch gum disease in its early stages and reverse it quickly. Contact us to make an appointment today!

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