What Your Mouth Could be Telling You

Women's dental health

The month of May is full of days dedicated to celebrate women. This year, the 20th annual National Women’s Health Week begins on Mother’s Day, May 12, and is celebrated through May 18.  Among the many reasons to celebrate and encourage women, one of the main goals for National Women’s Health Week is to be in the best physical and mental health possible. This includes visiting your doctor for well-woman visits, getting the necessary preventive screenings, getting active, and eating healthy, to name a few.

But did you know it’s just as important to check on the health of your mouth as it is the rest of your body? New research has confirmed that gum disease, or periodontitis, is tied to an elevated risk of several types of cancer. Whether due to a crowded personal calendar or simple procrastination, now is as good a time as any to go ahead and get your regular dental check up on the books.

Show Me the Proof

Gum disease is caused by the bacteria in our mouth, along with mucus and other particles, that form a sticky, colorless plaque on teeth. If not removed, it can harden and form tartar or calculus that brushing can’t remove.

proofAccording to an article published by Medical News Today, Jean Wactawski-Wende, Ph.D., from the State University of New York at Buffalo, in collaboration with colleagues from other U.S. institutions, investigated for the first time the association of gum disease and several types of cancer in women.

Researchers worked with a cohort from the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study. It found that of the 65, 869 female participants, aged 54-86 and most of them white, non-Hispanic, 7,149 had been diagnosed with a form of cancer after an average follow up of 8 years. All of the participants, through questionnaires given between 1999 and 2003, had reported a gum disease diagnosis.

According to the research, women who had reported a diagnosis of periodontal disease had a 14 percent higher risk of developing any type of cancer.

What We Already Know vs. What We Still Don’t Know

It’s nothing new that gum disease has been linked to heart disease, strokes, poor circulation, Type 2 Diabetes and complications with pregnancy. Tying gum disease to cancer, however, is quite another leap. Although the study showed an elevated risk to several types of cancer, such as esophageal, breast, and gallbladder cancer, it is important to note that no concrete evidence has suggested that one causes the other. In other words, it is not proven that gum disease causes cancer, but rather the study has revealed a correlation in some respect.

According to this University of Utah Health article, while people who suffer from gum disease do have an increased risk of cancer, it may not be the fault of the gum disease. The article speculates that those who get cancer could have developed gum disease because of a poor immune system, for example.

floss like a bossDon’t Put the Floss Away

The evidence is still pretty clear. Periodontal disease is tied to an elevated risk of cancer and other types of health issues in some way, shape or form. The goal of treatment for gum disease is to control the infection. Of the most basic treatment, good daily care at home, such as brushing and flossing, will be the best place to begin. Modifying certain behaviors, such as quitting tobacco, may be necessary to improve treatment outcome.

It may be necessary to do a deeper cleaning, depending on the severity of the gum disease. This deep-cleaning method, called scaling and root planing, removes the tartar from above and below the gum line and eliminates rough spots on the tooth where germs gather. This will help remove the bacteria that contribute to the disease.

Is Gum Disease Treatable?

Don’t worry. Gum disease is treatable and the damage can even be minimized when caught in the earliest stages. It is important to begin with a consultation with Dr. Caffaratti, Dr. Doucette, or Dr. Besso to understand the state of your gums and to determine a treatment plan.

At Dr. Caffaratti’s, our experienced team of professionals have the tools to treat gum disease at every stage, and can help you maintain your dental health after your periodontal cleaning.

Women, act now! Call us today at 775-358-1555 to schedule your consultation to ensure your chances of elevated cancer are minimal!