Suspected Link Between Gum Disease & Pancreatic Cancer

posted: August 08, 2017

For decades, research has shown links between the bacteria of periodontal disease and serious diseases and conditions in the body. The list includes heart disease, some cancers, arthritis, diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, preterm babies, impotency and erectile dysfunction.

Based on findings of previous studies, a long-term study has revealed the bacteria of gum disease as a contributing factor to developing pancreatic cancer, which will be diagnosed in over 50 000 people this year. Because pancreatic cancer typically goes undiagnosed until advanced stages, fewer than 10% of those diagnosed will be living 5 years later.

One study, however, determined that people with 2 types of periodontal disease–causing oral bacteria have a greater risk of developing pancreatic cancer. Published by the Journal of the American Medical Association in June 2016 (http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/2526607), oral bacteria may provide an early marker for pancreatic cancer.

In the study, the DNA in saliva from over 360 adults who eventually developed pancreatic cancer was compared to samples of DNA in saliva to a similar number of adults who remained healthy.

In both groups, adjustments were made for age, gender, race, and body mass as well as for alcohol consumption, smoking and having diabetes. Participants who developed pancreatic cancer within two years of providing DNA samples were omitted to ensure no pre-existing factors could distort statistical outcomes.

Coupled with findings from previous studies, researchers were able to pinpoint two specific types of periodontal disease pathogens. Researchers noted that one pathogen type was more prevalent in the saliva of subjects who developed pancreatic cancer, showing a 59 percent greater risk of developing pancreatic cancer. The second pathogen type was shown to increase the risk by 50 percent.

This study is yet another reason to acknowledge that your oral health is an integral part of your overall health. When your teeth and gums are healthy, you can prevent gum disease, cavities, and according to research, the penetration of potent oral bacteria into the bloodstream.

Signs of periodontal disease include tender gums that bleed easily when brushing, frequent bad breath, gums that deepen in color from a healthy pink to red, and gum recession as gums pull away from teeth, exposing darker and sensitive tooth roots. Eventually, teeth will loosen and may require removal.

More than 47 percent of American adults have some level of periodontal disease. However, achieving and maintaining good oral health is quite simple. Twice daily brushing, daily flossing, having 6-month dental check-ups and avoiding a dry mouth are easy ways to limit oral bacteria.

Obviously, periodontal disease bacteria is potent. As more findings are revealed, I’ll share updates. In the meantime, be proactive when it comes to the symptoms of periodontal disease. Gum disease will only worsen without treatment.

If you’re experiencing symptoms of gum disease, call 843-871-6351 to arrange a no-charge consultation. I’ll be happy to answer your questions and discuss ways to help you achieve a healthy, confident smile.