As we come to understand the body better, we see more and more connections between things we used to think were separate. In particular, we notice how some illnesses can cause a cascade effect, resulting in numerous others.

Gum disease seems to be one of these illnesses, since it has been connected to heart disease, pregnancy complications, and now cancer. Several recent studies have shown that gum disease may increase your risk for some type of oral cancer, which makes detection and treatment an even higher priority than before.

Recent Study Suggests Strong Correlation

Truth-About-Oral-CancerA study recently published in the Journal of Head and Neck Medicine showed a correlation between oral cancer and gum disease. Researchers looked at 178 patients who had been diagnosed with oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC), the most common type of cancer, which accounts for about 90% of all oral cancers. The cancer patients were compared to 123 healthy controls matched for age. They found that bone loss around the teeth–a symptom of gum disease–was significantly correlated with OSCC risk. People with cancer as a whole had lost more bone mass–an average of about 4mm–compared to those without cancer, who had lost around 3 mm.

Tongue cancer has also been linked to periodontal disease in a similar, earlier study. This study, published in the  Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)’s Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery, matched 51 men who had tongue cancer with 53 men who had not been diagnosed. The results showed that people with chronic gum disease were more than five times more likely to develop tongue cancer.

Another study posited a potential tie between the two conditions: perhaps human papilloma virus (HPV) found a conducive environment when a person had gum disease. Because of a massive publicity campaign surrounding the vaccine, most people know the HPV virus is linked to cervical cancer, but may not realize it’s associated with many oral cancers as well. This study suggested that each millimeter of bone loss led to a 4-fold increase in the risk that you would develop HPV-related tongue cancer.

Prevention and Screening

At Rice Dentistry, we are fully committed to helping you maintain a healthy mouth. Part of that is our advance screening program for oral cancer, which allows us to detect oral cancer at an earlier stage, which increases your risk of survival and positive outcomes with only noninvasive treatments.

To learn more about your potential benefit from oral cancer screening, please contact Rice Dentistry in Irvine today for more information.