In 2017, a study from the University of Michigan found 1 in 3 middle-aged Americans to suffer from poor dental health.
Now a study out of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston has found that periodontal disease and tooth loss have been linked to adenocarcinoma of the stomach and esophagus.
Researchers followed 98,459 women from the Nurses’ Health Study (1992–2014) and 49,685 men from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (1988–2016) and found during a 22-28 year span of follow up, 199 people developed esophageal cancer, while 238 developed gastric cancer. In those with known periodontal disease, there was a 43% increase risk in esophageal cancer and a 52% increase risk in gastric cancer. Those with greater than 2 teeth lost had even higher risk.
They believe the link could be due the disruption of resident oral bacteria and pathogens, called microbial dysbiosis.
Authors state, the disruption of protective bacteria could cause an over-representation of Tannerella forsythia, along with Peptostreptococcus stomatis and Streptococcus anginosus, which have been implicated in gastric cancer. Likewise, Porphyromonas gingivalis, known to cause aggressive periodontal disease, may be linked to esophageal cancer.
Periodontal, or gum disease, is caused by inflammation of the gum. Contributing factors include bacteria, poor dental hygiene, smoking, diabetes, hormonal changes, medications that decrease saliva, and even genetics. Gingivitis, an earlier and milder stage, occurs when bacteria and plaque buildup around the teeth causing the gums to become swollen and red. If this doesn’t resolve, periodontitis can occur leading to recession of the gum, loss of teeth, and damage to the ligaments and bone.
Signs of periodontitis include:
- Bleeding gums
- Swollen gums
- Tender gums
- Gum recession making the teeth look longer
- Bad breath
- Pus and inflammation
- Painful chewing
Tooth decay and gum disease have long been liked to a variety of health issues including diabetes and cardiovascular risk.
The American Dental Association recommends the following :
- Brushing your teeth with fluoride toothpaste twice a day for 2 minutes
- Flossing once a day
- Drinking plenty of water and keeping a healthy diet
- Replace your toothbrush every 3 months or sooner if frayed or damaged
- Dental check ups once or twice a year, or more often if needed.
Regular checkups can therefore not only prevent tooth decay but help in the prevention of serious medical conditions.