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  • Writer's pictureShruti GOCHHWAL

Can You Get Cancer from Bad Teeth?

Whether you brush your teeth to prevent bad breath or cavities, a shiny, clean smile is a social need. Despite this, many people do not brush their teeth twice a day as prescribed, and a small percentage fail to brush at all. The obvious results include missing teeth and unpleasant dental visits. What about cancer, though? CANCER, yes! Dental hygiene is critical to our general well-being. It’s no secret that a careless approach to dental care leads to gum diseases and cavities, however, a study suggests it could also lead to cancer.

Dental Plaque

Dental plaque is a sticky bacterial mixture that occurs on the teeth’s surfaces and around the gum line. If the plaque is not dissolved by cleaning, the bacteria present develop mucopolysaccharides, an adhesive chemical. This develops into a biofilm, a clear layer on the teeth where bacteria can survive. This plaque bacteria releases an acid that harms the tooth enamel.


Caption: Lingual incisor photo of Tartar. Credits: Common Wikimedia

Over time, this plaque hardens and becomes tartar. Not flossing and brushing the teeth regularly are the two main causes of tartar and dental plaque.

Plaque growth is a typical sign of poor oral hygiene.

Dental Plaque and Cancer

Dental plaque can lead to systemic health problems. According to a report, a person with permanent plaque has a 79 percent greater chance of dying from cancer than someone who maintains proper dental hygiene.

Researchers wanted to find out if infection and inflammation of the teeth and gums can lead to early death from cancer.

They followed the wellbeing of nearly 1,400 Swedish adults in Stockholm for 24 years .

At the start of the surveillance process, they were all in their 30s and 40s. Participants were assessed for factors likely to boost their cancer risk, like smoking.

Other potential risk factors associated with premature death, included frequency of dental visits, lower educational attainment, and lower-income.

Age almost doubled the chance of cancer-related mortality among all risk factors. In fact, in male participants, the odds increased by 90%.

Participant’s dental hygiene was also evaluated to determine the levels of gum disease, dental plaque, tooth loss and tartar they had.

They didn’t have oral disease, but they did have a lot of plaque on the top of their teeth.

At the end of the study, 58 people had died of cancer. Females made up over a third of the respondents. The estimated age of mortality for men was 60, and for women it was 61.

The men would have been expected to live nearly 8.5 years longer, and the women an additional 13 years, so their deaths were considered premature.

Breast cancer was the leading cause of death for women, while a variety of cancers claimed the lives of men. Dental plaque levels of 0.84 to 0.91 were seen among those that had died, suggesting that the gum region of the teeth had been coated with substantial dental plaque. Those that had made it were more likely to have higher values.

The rating ranged from 0.66 to 0.67 among the casualties, suggesting that the gums were still partly coated in dental plaque.

Dental plaque was associated with a significantly increased (79%) risk of cancer-related death.

How to Prevent Dental Plaque Buildup

The mouth’s mixture of chewed food and saliva provides an area where bacteria can expand on the teeth and gum line. Consuming sugary and starchy foods increases the quantity of dental plaque.

Follow these simple tips to help avoid the accumulation of dental plaque: ⦁ Brush your teeth at least twice a day ⦁ Floss after meals to remove food particles stuck in between your teeth ⦁ Swish with mouthwash ⦁ Avoid eating sugary and starchy foods.

Gum Disease and Cancer

Another long-term health study provides additional indication for a link between individuals with advanced gum disease and cancer.

Periodontitis is an advanced gum disease. It is caused by a bacterial formation that damages your bone and soft tissue that support the teeth.

Researchers used data from extensive dental exams conducted for 7,466 individuals. The participants were followed from the late 1990s until 2012.

1,648 new cancer cases were diagnosed during the follow-up period.

periodontitis gum disease

Chewing betel nuts can cause Periodontitis      Credits: Commons wikimedia

Among participants with severe periodontitis, a 24 per cent increase in the relative risk of developing cancer was found, compared to those with mild to no periodontitis.

The most risk was found in cases of lung cancer, trailed by colorectal cancer.

Researchers noted an increase in risk of developing cancer by 28 per cent amongst patients who had no teeth, which is a sign of severe periodontitis or previous periodontal treatment.

These patients also had an 80 per cent increase in risk of developing colon cancer.

The bacteria that lead to periodontal gum disease directly go from the mouth into the lungs, or from the mouth to the colon. If an inflammatory response is caused, that could increase the risk of cancer.

A small increase in the risk of pancreatic cancer in individuals with severe periodontitis was also found.

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