As patients of Seaside, Oregon dentist Dr. Scott Santos know, gum disease poses a significant risk to our oral and overall health.
Plaque, a sticky biofilm, lingers on the surface of our teeth and along the gum line. The bacteria uses the sugars we consume to produce harmful substances that irritate gum tissue and erode away tooth enamel. If left untreated, plaque can lead to the development of gum disease, tooth decay, cavities, and permanent tooth loss. Of course, that’s only what plaque can do to our oral health, never mind our overall health.
In recent years, a growing amount of research has found compelling links between tooth decay and gum disease and a range of chronic illnesses that include heart disease, stroke, dementia, and even some forms of cancer.
Now a study conducted by researchers in China have helped to reinforce this potential connection by finding that individuals suffering from periodontal disease, a severe form of gum disease, may have an increased risk of developing lung cancer. The study, scheduled for print in the Journal of Periodontology, discovered that individuals suffering from periodontal disease are 1.24 times more likely to develop lung cancer when compared to patients in good oral health.
Link Between Gum Disease & Lung Cancer
In the study, researchers assessed the findings of five additional studies that evaluated over 320,000 participants. The review found an increased risk of lung cancer even after adjusting for participants’ smoking habits and alcohol consumption, both of which rank as common risk factors for advanced gum disease. Study participants who smoked, drank regularly, and had received a diabetes diagnosis – another independent risk factor for both gum disease and lung cancer – were shown to be 1.36 times more likely to develop lung cancer.
The results of the study also found that women with periodontal disease were more likely than men to develop lung cancer.
One study reviewed by researchers even suggested that certain types of oral bacteria may play a role in the development of cancerous cells in the lungs, while another indicated that the successful treatment of periodontal disease could lead to a substantially lower risk for lung cancer. However, despite these correlations, researchers have noted that further study is required to fully understand any potential links.
A Growing Connection
This latest study continues to add to the growing body of literature that associates severe gum disease with other chronic health conditions, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. While further research is needed on the possible links between periodontal disease and lung cancer, it has become apparent that taking care of your teeth and gums can greatly reduce the risk of gum disease and potentially other chronic conditions.
Lung cancer ranks as the leading cause of cancer death in women and men, according to the American Cancer Society. Nearly 158,000 Americans die from lung cancer each year. More people die from lung cancer than prostate, breast, and colon cancer combined.