Study Links Breast Cancer and Gum Disease

A recent study, published in the Journal of Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology, has discovered that women who suffer from gum disease are up to three times more likely to develop breast cancer. According to an article from the Oral Health Foundation, more than 200 women participated in the study, which allowed researchers to examine the theory that breast cancer could be triggered as the result of a systemic inflammation, which can originate in infected gums. Scientists also suggested that bacteria from the mouth may enter the circulatory system through the gums which then may affect breast tissue.

Dr. Nigel Carter OBE, CEO of the Oral Health Foundation, believes the research provides even further evidence that cancer could be associated with chronic inflammation and infections.

“Interestingly, this research shows that there is evidence to support the theory that gum disease can have a much larger impact on the health of our whole body,” Dr. Carter said. “It suggests that severe gum disease is associated with instances of breast cancer and this may be through spread of infection and inflammation starting in the mouth.”

But the entire picture is still unclear.

“It’s important to recognize though that gum disease has not been proven to cause breast cancer, or any other form of the disease and it remains to be seen whether it is just an association,” he added. “More research is required in order to identify the specific-relationship, something we very much welcome. If we can study periodontal disease and breast cancer in other populations, and if we can do a more detailed study of the characteristics of periodontal disease, it would help us understand more about the relationship.”

Gum disease is caused when dental plaque, the film of bacteria that forms on the surface of the teeth, is not properly removed with a regular oral care routine, which includes brushing twice a day, flossing regularly and visiting your dentist bi-annually. The first signs of gum disease include blood on your toothbrush or in the sink as you clean your mouth, or bleeding gums while eating. Persistent bad breath is another indication of oral disease. If not treated properly, gum disease can lead to the weakening of the tissues that support the teeth, eventually causing tooth loss.

Previous studies have identified links between gum disease and other potentially life-threatening conditions, like heart disease, stroke, diabetes and even dementia.

“The best way to cut your risk of gum disease is to ensure that you have an effective oral health routine,” added Dr. Carter. “If you feel you have gum disease then you should visit your dentist straight away for a thorough check-up of your teeth and gums. Catching gum disease early is the best way to ensure it is treated effectively.”

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