A 10-year study performed by NYU Langone Health’s Perlmutter Cancer Center has found that two types of bacteria that are present in individuals with gum disease can increase the chances of being affected by esophageal cancer.
The eight most common type of cancer in the world, esophageal cancer can be highly fatal and is the sixth most common cause of cancer-related deaths. In the US, it affects around 1 in 125 in men and 1 in 417 in women. The American Cancer Society says that currently, only around 20% of those diagnosed with this form of cancer will live for more than five years following diagnosis.
The study by NYU Langone found that bacteria associated with periodontal (gum) disease can find its way into the upper digestive tract, and in the case of one of the types of bacteria in the study, tannerella forsythia, its presence may increase the chances of this kind of cancer by 21%.
It is important to note that while the bacteria involved demonstrates a link between gum disease and esophageal cancer, it has not yet been proven that periodontal disease directly causes the cancer. However, the connection should be reason enough to reinforce the importance of proper oral hygiene and treatment of gum disease.
The Importance of Flossing
Flossing is an important part of your dental hygiene routine. Many people think that brushing is enough to get rid of the bacteria that are present in your mouth, but this is not the case. There are areas of your teeth and gums that a toothbrush cannot reach. When left unclean, this bacteria can begin to harm the tooth and surrounding gums, causing decay and gum disease.
Besides the possible increased risk of esophageal cancer, gum disease can also increase the risk of other major medical issues including heart disease. If you have not regularly flossed in the past, it is not too late to start making that a habit each day.
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The best way to care for your gums and teeth is through proper brushing, flossing, and regular dental cleanings. Periodontal disease affects close to 50,000 people in the US each year and is much easier to treat when it is spotted early. If you think you have gum disease, please contact our office.