Cancer is one of the most feared diseases of our time. While some forms can be treated with chemotherapy or through more natural means, a large percentage of patients suffering from the “Big C” succumb to the disease. Considering the grim details, it is great news to know that cancer can be prevented by simply taking care of your teeth.
Dental health is often overlooked, with majority believing that any occurring problem can be solved by a simple dental procedure. What most are not aware of is that our teeth have tiny nerves inside the tooth chamber that could serve as portals for bacteria to enter into. Looking at the teeth anatomy, you’ll see that teeth aren’t just part of the skeleton. They actually have something inside of them, and that’s the very reason why we feel pain when we have tooth decay.
Where Does this All Start?
Many studies have proven that poor oral health means poor overall health. Mayo Clinic gives you more information on this matter. In the case of cancer, the bacteria found in your mouth can increase carcinogenesis or the transformation of your healthy cells into cancer cells.
On the outside, your teeth appears to be hard and impossible to break, but the sturdy shell actually serves as protection for something more delicate inside. The layers of your teeth include:
- Pulp Cavity
- Gum Tissue
- Nerve and Blood Vessels
- Jaw Bone
When a large amount of plaque lingers on your teeth’s external structure, it will calcify and harden into tartar. Tartar creates a pocket that loosens the hold of your gums to your teeth. When this happens, bacteria can easily go through the gaps that have been created. The damage can get so severe that it can increase the mortality rate of cancer patients by about 79 percent, the British Medical Journal reports.
What Types of Cancers Can Be Expected Because of an Unhealthy Oral Condition?
Various scientific studies have agreed that people with poor oral health are more likely to develop oral cancer later in life. Smokers, particularly in males, consume a high level of carcinogenic substances in their cigarettes. It was also found that adults who rate themselves as having “poor to fair” oral hygiene have more chances of developing oral cancer.
A stick of cigarette contains about 4,000 toxic chemicals including 43 known cancer-causing substances such as nicotine, arsenic, tar, and carbon monoxide. These substances are very difficult to remove even after a good brushing and flossing. When a smoker swallows these chemicals all at once, there is a great possibility of him developing cancer in the future.
Recent studies show the connection between pancreatic cancer and poor oral hygiene. As of 2007, pancreatic cancer has been rated fourth out of the deadliest types of cancers, of which about 30,000 Americans die each year from.
Pancreatic cancer is linked to poor oral hygiene because similar bacteria is found in the mouth, stomach, and pancreas. The bacteria is said to be the culprit of developing the cancer which triggers the carcinogenesis of the cells. People with periodontal diseases are more likely to develop pancreatic cancer than those who have healthy dental areas.
Surprisingly, breast cancer is included in the list of the cancer types that can be acquired through poor dental health.
Studying a group of individuals from 1985 to 2001, the World Health Organization found that the people who don’t have healthy teeth and gums and are suffering from a chronic periodontal disease, are the ones who have developed breast cancer through the years. Furthermore, periodontal disease causes the gums to inflame, which in turn, activates several health risks including diabetes, stroke, a delicate pregnancy and other illnesses.
The study tested an individual’s blood for levels of C-reactive protein. C-reactive protein is responsible for controlling the inflammation of the gums and keeping them healthy and normal. When the protein showed a low occurrence in the blood sample, the patient is considered safe from the disease. Those with high levels however, should start seeing their doctor for a check-up. The reason behind this is that your blood produces more C-reactive protein if there is a need.
Effect of Chemotherapy in Oral Condition
The best known treatment for cancer is chemotherapy which uses radiation to kill the bad cells. Unfortunately, it isn’t able to recognize healthy cells, so it kills them along with the cancer cells. The effects can be very painful, traumatic, and weakening. Your bodily functions are almost suspended and many changes are experienced, especially in your dental area.
Severe cases of cancers may inflict the following side-effects to the oral cavity:
- Increased risk of dental infection and brittle teeth
- Difficulty in chewing and swallowing
- Taste alterations
- Dry mouth
- Speech and eating difficulties
- Oral yeast infection
Cancer is a deadly disease that affects thousands of people everyday. We should all start taking our oral health seriously to avoid life-threatening health problems in the future.
Call your dentist today and schedule an appointment to talk about your oral health routine.
I am Valerie M. Preston, DDS with more than 20 years of experience in the dental industry. I’m an expert in restorative and cosmetic dentistry and a proud member of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, the American Dental Association and the North Carolina Dental Society. I own VPreston Dental in Raleigh, NC, a dental clinic known for its spa-like ambiance. For more details, you can check out my website, Facebook and Twitter pages.