Gum Disease May Predict Pancreatic Cancer

As your family and cosmetic dentist in Newberg, Dr. Jennifer McLeod strives to protect the long-term oral health of all of her patients. As most of our patients already know, tooth decay and gum disease rank as the two biggest threats their oral health faces on a daily basis. Fortunately, you can significantly lower your risk of these two oral health problems by brushing and flossing daily.

Plaque – a sticky biofilm – builds up on the surface of your teeth and along the gum line. Plaque uses the foods and drinks we consume to produce harmful acids that slowly erode away at tooth enamel. Over time, plaque can cause gum inflammation and gum disease.

Brushing helps to remove plaque from the surface of your teeth while flossing works to remove plaque from areas of your mouth a toothbrush cannot reach – between your teeth and along the gum line.

The need to brush and floss daily becomes more apparent as further research continues to find compelling links between gum disease a variety of chronic long-term illnesses that include heart disease, dementia, diabetes, and now pancreatic cancer.

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association has found that individuals with high levels of a particular oral bacterium have a higher risk of developing pancreatic cancer, a disease that impacts the lives of over 50,000 people a year.

Further Evidence Emerges

As part of the study, researchers from New York University compared saliva samples from over 360 participants who later developed pancreatic cancer with samples from over 370 healthy participants. The team discovered that participants with higher levels of the bacteria Porphyromonas gingivalis had a 59 percent higher risk of developing pancreatic cancer. P. gingivalis is one of the most common types of harmful oral bacteria and has been strongly linked to periodontitis, an advanced form of the disease that ranks as the leading cause of permanent tooth loss in adults.

The results of this latest study continue to build on previous research that has found links between gum disease and various forms of cancer, including colon and oral cancer. However, the results of this study mark the first time researchers have shown that significant oral bacteria levels can precede pancreatic cancer rather than developing after the disease has already appeared.

Science doesn’t fully understand what causes pancreatic cancer, and researchers caution that it’s still too early to say whether this specific type of bacteria directly contributes to the development of the disease. However, researchers do theorize that since inflammation is linked to cancer, that bacteria could cause inflammation in the pancreas. Another possibility is that the bacteria simply serves as a marker for cancer-causing inflammation.

Protecting Your Oral & Overall Health

You can significantly lower your risk of gum disease and tooth decay by scheduling regular appointments with your family and cosmetic dentist in Newberg, Dr. Jennifer McLeod.

Regular exams provide Dr. McLeod with the opportunity to spot the signs of decay and disease early on while the conditions are still easily treatable. Regular dental cleanings provide our staff of gentle dental hygienists with the chance to remove plaque deposits from the surface of your teeth and along the gum line before inflammation can occur.

As further evidence continues to emerge, it’s become clear that patients of all ages can no longer take their oral health for granted. Acting now to protect your oral health can significantly improve your oral and overall health for a lifetime.