Gum Disease is Linked to 14% Higher Risk of Breast Cancer
What could your dentist know about breast cancer? More than you might think.
Your mouth can be home to a myriad of different bacteria; however, the average person’s mouth hosts only about 10% or less of these strains. Of those, a much smaller amount could be considered harmful bacteria, or bacteria which can eventually lead to gum disease.
If a harmful bacteria strain does make a home in your oral cavity, conditions such as gingivitis and periodontitis can arise. While usually relatively easy to treat (with only severe cases needing surgery), there is another, lesser-known side effect of gum disease that can be life threatening.
When you hear the words “gum disease”, you don’t often relate it to a terminal illness, but, rather, more of an inconvenience than anything else. However, studies continue to show that there is more to gum disease than we initially thought: in addition to being linked to heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, respiratory disease, and other conditions, gum disease has been linked to a 14% higher risk of breast cancer in patients who suffer from it.
The research is part of the very large Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study, commonly called the WHI. The WHI is looking for links between health, diet, lifestyle, and genetic factors and health problems, such as cancer.
“In this study, the researchers monitored 73,737 postmenopausal women in the WHI who had never been diagnosed with breast cancer. About 26% of the women told the researchers they had gum disease.
After about 6.5 years, 2,124 women had been diagnosed with breast cancer.”
The link between gum disease and breast cancer
More and more today we are hearing about the importance of gut bacteria and how probiotics (good bacteria found in the gut) are beneficial to your overall health and wellness. The same can be said of bacteria found in your mouth.
There is a delicate balance, a “jungle” if you will, of bacteria that live in the damp, warm and dark cavern that is your mouth. It is a perfect breeding ground for bacteria. When the balance is optimal there is often nothing to worry about. The good bacteria will maintain the balance by outnumbering and killing off invaders; however, when foreign, bad bacteria finds a permanent home in your mouth, early stages of gum disease and, ultimately, periodontal disease can occur.
An immune response releases proinflammatory cytokines to regulate the body’s overall immune reaction to the infection, but they can cause another, unintended side effect…
According to a study published in 2015 by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), inflammation is theorized to be a key player in tumor initiation, promotion, and angiogenesis (the development of new blood vessels allowing tumors to develop and thrive). The study showed that these cytokines play an important role in the introduction and protection of breast cancer tumors. With that taken into account, good oral hygiene has never been more important.
How to lower your risk of gum disease
Brush your teeth adequately: Brushing for 2 minutes after meals is one of the best ways to prevent gum disease. This practice helps to ensure that food particles trapped in between your teeth are kept to a minimum, thus cutting off the food supply of harmful bacteria.
Floss: We’ve all been told we need to floss more right? It is very true. Flossing helps to remove food particles and plaque in between your teeth that a toothbrush cannot.
Use mouthwash: Finally, mouthwash can get into the tight crevices that both your toothbrush and floss are unable to; removing plaque and food particles in the far reaches of your teeth and gums.
There are so many reasons to keep your teeth clean and healthy with good oral hygiene, and it is not just for the sake of your oral health, but your overall health. Regular trips to the dentist will help ensure that you are doing all you can to keep a good oral health profile.
If you notice continual red, swollen, and/or bleeding gums, schedule an appointment with our office in Hingham or Norwood, MA immediately, as these may be early indicators of advanced gum disease. With our advanced, laser gum disease therapy treatments, we are able to non-invasively target and remove harmful bacteria, while stimulating healthy, beneficial growth of tissue and bone.