Your dentist and dental hygienist are always harping on having healthy teeth and gums. They want you to look good and they want you to keep your teeth longer. They want you to avoid painful infections and complications. Now itâs been found that your dental care workers are an integral part of the fight against cancer, too.
Gum disease is very common in the U.S. In fact, around 80% of adults in the country have it at this moment. Thatâs a big number!
Also known as âperiodontal disease,â this condition is caused by a build-up of bacteria on the teeth. When bacteria combine with other stuff in your mouth, such as saliva or minerals, the whole mess turns into what we know as âplaque.â When the plaque is left on your teeth (because of insufficient brushing and flossing), it becomes âtartar.â Yeah, you know what Iâm talking about: that hard yellow or brown stuff that makes its appearance just above the gum line. And itâs a problem that just gets worse and worse.
When you have tartar, more plaque will stick to your teeth, compounding the problem. Often, the bacteria can cause your gums to become swollen and red, and to bleed. Called âgingivitis,â this is the least severe form of gum disease. If you donât visit your dental hygienist to have tartar cleaned off, then youâre at risk for âperiodontitis.â This more severe infection can lead to permanent gum damage and bone loss. If you have periodontitis, your teeth could eventually fall out.
And thatâs not all. Researchers have recently found that chronic periodontitis could be behind tongue cancer.
The researchers evaluated the information on 105 Caucasian men. Half of them (51) had been diagnosed with tongue cancer. The other half (54) had also been examined for the disease, but were cleared. The researchers checked each patientâs x-rays for bone loss. Thatâs how they could tell if someone had suffered from periodontitis.
They found that the tongue cancer sufferers had almost twice the amount of bone loss that the healthy patients did. For each millimeter of bone loss a person had, the risk for this particular type of cancer went up by about 5.23 times. That means that the longer you let gum disease have free reign, the greater your risk for cancer.
So now you have one more reason to take good care of your teeth and gums. You know the drill. Brush your teeth thoroughly, twice a day. Floss every day. Eat a proper diet with lots of fruits, vegetables and whole grain products, sources of protein, and some dairy. Do not smoke or chew tobacco. And — we know itâs a pain, but itâs necessary — visit your dentist every six months.
Keep an eye out for symptoms of periodontitis. These include chronic bad breath; red, swollen, or bleeding gums; pain in the gum area or when chewing; and sensitive or loose teeth. Youâll not only have healthier, nicer-looking teeth, but you might also reduce your risk for at least one form of cancer!