Are you flossing every day? Here’s another reason to make sure you’re minding your gums. A big study was conducted by Tufts University, in which they performed dental exams for over 7,000 participants and studied the results. The goal was to investigate the suspicion that many dentists have about the correlation of gum health and disease. Specifically, dentists believed that those with poor gums were at a higher risk of developing cancer.
Findings from the study did indeed reveal that participants with gum disease were 24 percent more likely to get cancer than those with mild or no gum disease. The specific cancers were both lung and colorectal. One dentist has long believed pancreatic cancer may be linked, too, although the findings didn’t specifically indicate that correlation.
With these results, some analysts questioned whether cigarettes were actually the culprit, rather than gum disease which is often caused by smoking, as is lung cancer. When statistics were adjusted to include smoking data, it appeared smoking did not have an impact on the correlation, and that non-smokers also influenced the results. That said, smoking is a contributor to a percentage of patients who do have gum disease. Other factors taken into consideration when interpreting the findings were age and gender, and neither showed any persuasion on the results.
While dentists weren’t surprised by the conclusion, exactly how gum disease causes cancer is still unknown. The study encourages more extensive research in this area, as well as a push for insurance companies to include dental services within existing comprehensive health plans. Most dentists find the separation odd and concerning as the mouth has a strong influence on our body’s health, as this latest study supports.
Anyone can get gum disease, but some groups tend to develop it more than others. Those most vulnerable to gum disease are individuals without access to dental care, or those in lower socioeconomic brackets who don’t practice at home oral health. Cigarette smokers, of course, are also at risk.
Still, most people with gum disease are not destined for cancer. While the correlation does exist, the percentage of people who will actually develop cancer is relatively low. It only means that this group is at a greater risk than those with healthy gums.
Healthy dental hygiene includes visiting your local dentist twice a year for a cleaning, daily brushing and flossing, and maintaining a nutritious diet and balanced lifestyle.