Having a healthy smile isn’t just about maintaining appearances; new research indicates that there is a strong correlation between periodontal disease and breast cancer in post-menopausal women. In a longitudinal study that followed almost 74,000 women, researchers discovered that women who had persistent gum disease were significantly more likely to develop breast cancer when compared to their healthy-mouthed counterparts.
Why Does Periodontal Disease Increase Breast Cancer Risk?
Scientists aren’t entirely certain the link between periodontal disease and breast cancer, but the research strongly suggests three major considerations that may shed some light on this surprising revelation:
- The same bacteria that is found in the mouth have also been found inside breast tumors. It has been speculated that during brushing, flossing, and eating, these bacteria can get into the bloodstream and migrate to other tissues. Over time, this repeated exposure to these germs can cause cancerous tumors to develop.
- Certain bacteria have been shown to release toxins that can change the way cells divide, thus leading to mutations to the cells. This can lead to the formation of tumors.
- It is well known that gum disease can lead to systemic infection, such as heart disease and even diabetes. The same systemic inflammation that causes these chronic conditions can also lead to the formation of cancerous tumors.
The bottom line is this: gum disease is extremely common. Many people tend to underestimate the dangers of it, considering it to be a mere cosmetic issue. However, with the increased risk of breast cancer and other chronic diseases, the need to keep your mouth healthy is quite critical.
Signs that you may have gum disease (including gingivitis) include:
- Red, swollen, painful gums
- Bleeding when you brush and floss
- Foul breath halitosis
- Loose teeth
- Receding gums
Be sure to brush twice per day, for two minutes per session, and use a fluoride-based toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush. Take time to floss, as well, using a fresh segment of floss on each tooth and getting up under the gum line.
If you start to notice any of these signs of gum disease, please give our office a call right away. We will carefully inspect the health of your mouth during a comprehensive dental exam and, if we determine that you do have gingivitis or periodontal disease, we can start treatment to stop the progression of the disease in its tracks.