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Gum Disease Can Increase Cancer and Alzheimer’s Risk


Did you know that according to the CDC, almost 50 percent of Americans over the age of 30 have some form of gum disease?

But it doesn’t stop there — research has shown that periodontal disease affects much more than just your gums and teeth: It increases the likelihood of serious health maladies.

In fact, the results of recent studies found the condition is linked to a 14-percent increased risk of cancer and a 70-percent increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

The Link Between Gum Disease and Cancer

Scientists at New York State University in Buffalo explained that the bacteria responsible for inflamed gums can spread to the blood, where it produces inflammation that can initiate tumor development. They associated poor tooth brushing with a significantly elevated risk of lung, breast, skin, gallbladder, throat and oral cancers. These were the conclusions of an eight-year study involving 65,000 women in their late 60s. The results are similar to the findings of earlier research on men.

In the study, the women were required to answer health questionnaires that included this query: “Has a dentist or dental hygienist ever told you that you had periodontal or gum disease?” Those who reported a history of the condition had a 14-percent higher risk of overall cancer.

“There is increasing evidence that periodontal disease may be linked to an increased cancer risk and this association warrants further investigation,” said the paper’s first author, Ngozi Nwizu

Esophageal cancer, which was three times higher in the women with gum disease, posed the biggest risk. “The esophagus is in close proximity to the oral cavity, and so periodontal pathogens may more easily gain access to and infect the esophageal mucosa and promote cancer risk at that site,” said senior author Jean Wactawski-Wende.

“Esophageal cancer ranks among the most deadly cancers and its etiology is not well known, but chronic inflammation has been implicated,” said Nwizu. “Certain periodontal bacteria have been shown to promote inflammation even in tiny amounts, and these bacteria have been isolated from many organ systems and some cancers including esophageal cancers. It is important to establish if periodontal disease is an important risk of esophageal cancer so that appropriate preventive measures can be promoted.”

Gallbladder cancer incidence was 73-percent higher in the women with gum disease. “Chronic inflammation has also been implicated in gallbladder cancer, but there has been no data on the association between periodontal disease and gallbladder risk. Ours is the first study to report on such an association,” said Nwizu.

The study was published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

The Link Between Gum Disease and Alzheimer’s

A study at Chung Shan Medical University in Taichun in Taiwan found people with long-term gum disease may have a huge risk of developing Alzheimer’s. The participants involved 28,000 people, 9,300 of whom had chronic periodontitis, a common variety of gum disease. Analysis of the results showed those who had suffered from the condition for more than ten years had a 70-percent higher likelihood of contracting Alzheimer’s. The findings were published in the journal Alzheimer’s Research & Therapy.

“This finding supports the notion that pro-inflammatory factors due to [gum disease] may slowly and progressively induce neurodegenerative changes that lead to the development of Alzheimer’s disease,” wrote scientist Chang-Kai Chen.

Gum Disease’s Link to Other Illnesses

Earlier research shows how gum disease affects general wellness. Studies tie it to heart health — they indicate that increased bacteria in the mouth can lead to the production of inflammatory markers that damage blood vessels supplying the heart. Other investigations indicate gum disease elevates blood sugar, which can raise the risk of type 2 diabetes. Additional research has found that bacteria in the mouth can be aspirated into the lungs and cause respiratory infections like pneumonia. Lastly, the incidence of premature births and miscarriages are up to three times higher in women with gum disease, which may possibly stem from the inflammation of arteries supplying the uterus.

How to Protect Yourself From Gum Disease

Good oral hygiene can make a big difference. Most people don’t brush their teeth long enough. Brush for two minutes at least twice a day, including the part of the gums where the teeth are embedded. While you brush, use a systematic pattern, so you won’t overlook any areas. Floss to remove debris and bacteria between the teeth. It’s recommended to undergo a professional cleaning to remove plaque by a dental hygienist twice a year. Throw away old toothbrushes, as they can harbor bacteria.

In addition to practicing good oral hygiene, the researchers have found that supplementation with CoQ10 may help ward of the disease. Learn more in our article CoQ10 Supplement May Curb Gum Disease.


Mary West is a natural health enthusiast, as she believes this area can profoundly enhance wellness. She is the creator of a natural healing website where she focuses on solutions to health problems that work without side effects. You can visit her site and learn more at Ms. West is also the author of Fight Cancer Through Powerful Natural Strategies.

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