The connection between gum disease and conditions like heart disease and diabetes seems to be growing more related as study after study reveals how periodontal disease, even at early stages, can affect our overall health. If that weren’t enough, a recent study from the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at University Medical Centre Mainz in Germany published in Head & Face Medicine, (December 9, 2013) reveals there may be a connection to oral cancer as well.
The authors of the study suggest that treatment for patients with chronic periodontitis (gum disease) may reduce the risk of oral squamous cell carcinoma (oral cancer). Oral squamous cell carcinoma occurs on the lips, tongue or anywhere on the inside of the mouth when these cells develop certain mutations in their DNA. Currently, researchers are not sure exactly what factors cause these cells to mutate, but doctors have identified factors that increase the risk of mouth cancer. Some of those risk factors include tobacco use, (this includes cigarettes or chewing tobacco), heavy alcohol use, excessive sun exposure to the lips and HPV (human papillomavirus), which is sexually transmitted.
If these findings are on target, chronic periodontitis may also be a potential cause of mouth cancer too. Previous studies by other researchers have validated that there is a link between tongue cancer and periodontal disease (JAMA Otolaryngology — Head & Neck Surgery, Vol. 133: pp. 450-454). These same researchers, led by Dr. Tezal, published a second study in the same journal that looked at chronic periodontitis as a factor to HPV (human papillomavirus) infection in those patients with tongue cancers. What makes this third study significant is that it not only validates previous research but also showed how early periodontal therapy can improve outcomes.
Dr. Moergel and his colleagues studied 178 patients with mouth cancer plus another control group of 123 subjects who were cancer-free. All study subjects were treated between 2002 and December 2010 and then reexamined between January 2011 and January 2012. Subjects in the first group had to fit a specific profile that included:
- Diagnosed with mouth cancer limited to the area of periodontitis and no other malignant tumors
- Had at least six remaining teeth
- No other inflammatory diseases of the jaw, infectious diseases or autoimmune disorders
- Presently not taking prescription medication for teeth, oral tissue or bone issues
- No trauma or fractures to the jaw or mouth area
Interestingly enough, the control group had the same profile except they had not been diagnosed with a malignant disease.
All participants underwent radiography for bone loss conducted by one trained observer. Subjects were given a questionnaire to complete which included age, gender, weight, height, marital status and the level of education completed. Other information collected included oral hygiene habits, dates of dental exams, identification of gingival bleeding or halitosis, any current treatment for gum disease and if a dental prostheses (full or partial dentures) was currently being used. Also the subject’s previous health histories were evaluated with attention to tobacco and alcohol use, stress and various other diseases prior to being diagnosed with mouth cancer.
Overall, the study’s results revealed that periodontal services, including scaling and antimicrobial therapies had a positive influence in this study’s subpopulation that ultimately suggests gum disease treatments could potentially reduce the risk of mouth cancer or oral squamous cell carcinoma. Of course, further clinical studies could tell experts more and are in the works.
At Dr. Mark Langberg, DDS, MAGD your oral health is our main concern. At every examination we look for signs or symptoms of oral cancer. Early detection is the best defense against mouth cancer, and who better to help you with your treatments for gum disease, even if it’s a mild form like gingivitis, than your family dentist. Don’t neglect one of your best features! Call our office at 248-356-8790 and schedule your next dental check-up with Dr. Langberg and one of our highly skilled and friendly hygienists for a clean, disease free mouth and a winning smile!
Until Next Time,
Mark W Langberg, DDS, MAGD
Your Southfield Family Dentist
Tel: (248) 356-8790