Periodontal disease linked with breast cancer
Periodontal disease is a progression that follows illness or poor oral health care. It begins as inflammation of the gums, but can lead to decay, tooth loss, and loss of the bone and supporting oral structures. When gums are inflamed, pockets develop between the gum line and tooth and food and debris can become lodged. The bacteria that feed of food particles contribute to acidity in the mouth, causing cavities and soft tissue decay.
In addition to heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, periodontal disease has also been linked with cancers of the mouth, esophagus, head and neck, pancreas, and lungs. Previous studies have suggested that chronic inflammation could provide the link. Risk factors for periodontal disease include genetic predisposition, smoking, or hormonal changes in girls and women, which can include puberty, pregnancy, and menopause.
Some patients who have compromised immune systems may be more at risk for periodontal diseases, as are those taking medications with a side effect of dry mouth, as saliva is key in preventing periodontal disease and tooth decay. Medications causing dry mouth cause the acidity in the mouth to rise, leading to enamel erosion and overall poor oral health as a result of tooth decay. Regular brushing, flossing and cleaning by the dentist can help to prevent periodontal disease and can help prevent the conditions leading up to periodontal disease.
Researchers from the University at Buffalo’s School of Public Health and Health Professions, NY, set out to investigate if there was any between periodontal diseases and breast cancer. The team monitored 73,737 postmenopausal women who were enrolled in the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study. None of the women had previous breast cancer, but 26.1% of them self-reported periodontal disease. Periodontal disease include gingivitis, gum inflammation, bleeding of the gums, and other markers.
After a mean follow-up time of 6.7 years, 2,124 women were diagnosed with breast cancer. The researchers found that among all women, the risk of breast cancer was 14% higher in those who had periodontal disease. An 14% increased risk factor indicates a prevalent association between a woman’s gum tissue health and her breast tissue health.
There were similar links between women who had recently quit smoking, with those who had recently quit and had periodontal disease at the most at-risk of an increased association with breast cancer. If a woman had quit smoking long ago, there was no impact on the development of breast cancer.
The link between when a woman had quit smoking also had an impact, as “bacteria in the mouths of current and former smokers who quit recently are different from those in the mouths of non-smokers.” That bacteria may play a link in introducing bacteria to the body’s circulatory system and ultimately affecting breast tissue.
If you have any concern at all about your genetic risk of developing gum disease or breast cancer, it is best to consider the impact of the study as a reminder that smoking always has a negative impact on the preservation of health and that good oral health care is important in preserving overall wellness regardless of other factors.
Oral health care behaviors contributing to excellent health include:
- Eating a well-balanced, healthy diet. This is good for the teeth, gums, and overall body.
- Brushing twice daily.
- Flossing daily to remove debris that may be lodged between teeth.
- Rinsing with a gentle, dentist-approved mouthwash solution to maintain appropriate bacterial levels in the mouth.
- Visiting Smiles by Shields biannually for your 6-month cleaning appointment
- Having a dental exam and X-rays done annually to observe bone structure
- Avoiding sugary and starchy food and drinks
- Drinking water, unsweetened ice tea, and milk for remineralization
If you have questions about your oral care habits or how to improve them, the team at Smiles by Shields is happy to help. We’re committed not only to your bright, beautiful smile on the outside, but also to your overall wellness and your total body health!
Brazier, Y. (2015, December 21). “Not just a toothache: periodontal disease linked to breast cancer.” Medical News Today. Retrieved from