There’s a new reason to take care of your teeth, according to the latest findings from a Japanese research team. A strong link has been found between tooth loss and the increased risk of cancers, specifically esophageal, head and neck, and lung cancer.
“Tooth loss is a common consequence of chronic bacterial infection and may, therefore, serve as a surrogate for chronic infection and inflammation, which in turn may be important to the pathogenesis of cancer,” said Airo Hiraki, Ph.D., researcher at the Aichi Cancer Center and the study’s lead author.
Other, smaller studies have linked tooth loss to different cancers but this is the first to find a link with lung cancer. It’s also the first study conducted in an Asian population and the largest to date.
The study measured the rates of 14 different cancers against the participants’ rate of tooth loss. The links were found in areas of the body where one would logically associate cancers deriving from the consequence of oral hygiene, the esophagus, lungs, and the head and neck, which are the cancers that arise in the nasal cavities, sinuses, lips, mouth, salivary glands, throat or voice box.
So, poor oral care leads to bacterial infections and inflammation which leads to tooth loss. Tooth loss is a factor in the ability to eat a healthy diet which may aid in the development of cancer. Another theory is that tooth loss may simply reflect other unhealthy behaviors that contribute to cancer in their own right.
Whatever the reason, the link is clear. Among the 5,240 cancer patients in Japan, researchers found that those with tooth loss were 136% more likely to develop esophageal cancer. The risk of developing head and neck cancer was 68% more likely and there was a 54% increased risk of lung cancer. The researchers also concluded that the amount of missing teeth was directly proportional to the increased rate of cancer.
Compare that with the 10,480 cancer-free control participants and the numbers speak for themselves. Oral care is paramount to good overall health.
“The oral cavity is a gateway between the external environment and the gastrointestinal tract and acts in both food ingestion and digestion. Oral hygiene potential affects the gastrointestinal flora and nutritional status and may thus have implications for the development of chronic disease,” the researchers wrote.
Good oral care includes regular visits to a dentist like Dr. Andrew Hall in Colorado Springs. He can restore your smile with treatments like dental implants. Contact Dr. Hall today for an appointment!