13 Feb 2011
A new study suggests that women may be over 11 times more likely to suffer from breast cancer if they have missing teeth and gum disease.
The study (1), carried out by the Karolinska Institute in Sweden on over three thousand patients, showed that out of the 41 people who developed breast cancer those who had gum disease and loss of teeth were 11 times more likely to develop cancer.
As this appears to be the first study presenting such findings, Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter, believes more needs to be done in order to confirm the results.
Dr Carter said: "If future studies can also testify to the link between missing teeth and breast cancer, more has to be done to raise public awareness on the issue. The British Dental Health Foundation has a history of campaigning for better oral health, and the findings presented in the study indicate another clear link between your general and oral health."
Gum disease is caused by the bacteria in dental plaque. As the disease gets worse the bone anchoring the teeth in the jaw is lost, making the teeth loose. If this is not treated, the teeth may eventually fall out. In fact, more teeth are lost through periodontal disease than through tooth decay.
In the past several findings have been released to support the notion infections in the mouth can affect other areas of your general health. In people who have gum disease, it is thought that bacteria from the mouth can get into the blood stream and affect the heart, causing a higher risk of heart disease. The same principles affect those with diabetes, as people with the condition are more likely to pick up infections. People with gum disease are also thought to be at a higher risk of strokes, chest infections, and pregnant women are seven times more likely to have a premature baby with a low birth weight.
As gum disease develops painlessly, there aren't many ways in which you can detect problems evolving. Look out for inflamed gums causing them to be red, swollen and bleed easily, an unpleasant taste in your mouth, bad breath, loose teeth and regular mouth infections. With only a few of these symptoms visible, Dr Carter recommends a safe course of action if you start showing any signs of gum disease.
Dr Carter said: "The best way to prevent and treat gum disease is to ensure you remove all the plaque from between your teeth by brushing for two minutes twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. You also need to clean in between your teeth at least once a day with interdental brushes or dental floss as this is the area where gum disease starts. Regular visits to the dentist can also help to identify early signs of gum disease."
(1) Söder, B, Yakob, M, Meurman, J, Andersson, L, Klinge, B, Söder, P, 8 October 2010, 'Periodontal disease may associate with breast cancer', Karolinska Institute, Sweden. The main purpose of the study was to evaluate the association between periodontal (gum) disease and the prevalence of breast cancer in 3273 randomly selected subjects aged 30-40. Breast cancer incidence was registered from 1985 to 2001 according to the WHO International Classiﬁcation of Diseases criteria. At baseline, 1676 individuals also underwent a clinical oral examination (Group A) whereas 1597 subjects were not clinically examined but were registered (Group B). The associations between breast cancer, periodontal disease, and missing molars were determined using multiple logistic regression models with several background variables and known risk factors for cancer.
Source: British Dental Health Foundation