Magnifying Glass Inspecting Teeth

How Periodontal Disease and Cancer Are Connected

A growing body of evidence has linked people’s current oral health to several chronic diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, and strokes. Cancer, particularly oral cancers, has to lead to pain and disability for millions of people worldwide. Oral health continues to be an essential part of staying healthy. Still, with the onset of cavities, tooth loss, and periodontal disease affecting people each day, dentists, medical professionals, and researchers all continue to find better solutions that give access to people in need of health services. Because our mouth helps indicate our general health, exploring the connections between oral health and cancers remains an essential part of keeping people healthy and safe.

The Link Periodontal Disease and Oral Cancer

For people, periodontal diseases remain one of the most prevalent dental problems people face today, coming on par with cavities and tooth loss. Periodontal disease refers to the gums’ infections. It precedes gingivitis and the early stages of gum disease as a more serious and even life-threatening disease towards people with poor immune systems. Periodontal disease can occur from many factors, such as poor oral hygiene, smoking, hormones, and other factors, but some studies have shown that those who had or previously had periodontal disease have a higher risk of developing oral cancer.

According to studies from the Journal of Indian Society of Periodontology, researchers observed how bacteria often appear within the gum’s pockets, containing viruses such as the Epstein Barr virus, the human papillomavirus, and the cytomegalovirus, which are suspected agents that contribute to oral cancer in later life. Researchers also noticed how chronic inflammation, commonly associated with periodontal disease, is often correlated to the enzymes and cytokines that occur during cancer development. Carcinogenesis, or the initiation of cancer formation, could be a risk factor that occurs from poor oral health. Continuing further research within this potential link may help develop future treatments.

How to Lower Your Risk For Oral Cancer

Lowering your risk for oral cancer is the best way to prevent it from occurring, and as dentists, we highly encourage routine care for your teeth and gums. Some of our suggestions that you can do at any point include:

  • Regular Dental Visits: Visiting your dentist semi-annually to check in on your teeth and gums can help prevent the development of both periodontal disease and oral cancer.
  • Oral Hygiene: Keeping up with good oral hygiene habits, such as brushing and flossing, will heavily decrease the risk of oral cancer and periodontal disease, helping save time and money.
  • Change Your Diet: Incorporate foods high in fiber, protein, and other essential nutrients to keep your teeth, gums, and other tissues healthy. Removing sugars, saturated fats, and heavy amounts of salt can also help improve your oral health.
  • Quit Smoking: Attempting to quit smoking, whether smoking tobacco or vape with nicotine in it, can hurt your gums, cause periodontal disease, and heavily increase your cancer risk.

Having healthy teeth long term takes dedication and commitment to having good oral health, and by following these steps above, you can greatly reduce your risks and stay healthy long term.

Maureen Karl, DDS, FAGD
As a graduate of the University of Buffalo School of Dental Medicine in 2004, Dr. Maureen Karl continues to hone her craft through continuing education. Dental patients throughout the Granbury, TX area know they can rely on our practice for skilled dental care using the latest practices.