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Increased Incidence of Oral Cancer Associated with Gum Disease

  • April 8, 2015

It’s no secret that there are legitimate health problems associated with periodontal disease, particularly when it isn’t being properly treated and managed.

The evaluation of several studies has shown that now we must add another associated risk: oral cancer. Chronic inflammation has been the rationale behind the association looking at specific types of cancers and periodontal disease, according to a Surgical Restorative Resource article.

We’re exploring this topic in April, which is Oral Cancer Awareness Month. The American public doesn’t know nearly enough about oral cancer. It is estimated that approximately 43,250 people in the U.S. will be newly diagnosed with this form of cancer in 2015. That is up from the estimated number of new cases in 2014, which was 42,440, according to the National Cancer Institute.

It’s important to understand the signs, symptoms and risk factors of oral cancer so you can bring concerns to your dentist’s attention if you see anything out of the ordinary.

Oral cancer signs and symptoms as identified by the Mayo Clinic include:

  • A sore throat that doesn’t go away
  • Lumps or thickened skin or lining in your mouth
  • White or red patches inside your mouth
  • Loose teeth
  • Tongue pain
  • Your dentures have begun to fit poorly
  • Pain when chewing, or difficulty chewing
  • Pain when swallowing, or difficulty swallowing
  • Feeling like something is caught in your throat

Risk factors include:

  • A genetic predisposition to the disease
  • Tobacco use
  • Heavy alcohol use
  • Excessive sun exposure to the lips
  • Human papillomavirus
  • Eating a diet that lacks antioxidants and phytonutrients

Dentists and periodontists frequently are the first line of defense against oral cancer, through the process of early discovery, according to the Oral Cancer Foundation.

Researchers have evaluated multiple studies, all of which indicate an increased risk of oral cancer exists among people who have periodontal disease or tooth loss. One study performed by Dr. Mine Tezal and evaluated again recently found an increased occurrence of oral tumors or precancerous oral lesions in patients who had more than 1.5 mm of connective tissue loss. Tezal conducted his study between 1999 and 2005 and found “a significantly increased risk of tongue cancer with each mm of bone lost, after smoking adjustment.”

Another study determined that the more teeth you’re missing, the greater the oral cancer risk. This particular study assessed patients who were missing at least 11 teeth, compared to those who weren’t missing any, after adjustment for alcohol and smoking.

All of this is more evidence of how important it is to take care of your teeth and gums.

“While periodontal disease cannot be cured, it absolutely can be managed successfully,” says Dr. David DiGiallorenzo.

If your dentist has diagnosed you with periodontal disease, please contact us for an evaluation. We specialize in treatment of periodontal disease and offer laser treatment that is virtually painless. We also incorporate dietary counseling and other advanced technologies that have excellent track records of combatting the disease.