How Severe Gum Disease is Linked to Oral Cancer

severe gum disease

Given that fewer and fewer people are smoking, you would think that oral cancer – a cancer often connected with tobacco usage – would be on the decline, but it isn’t. In fact, each year it seems like more and more people are being newly diagnosed with this specific type of cancer. Why is that?

While medical professionals and dentists don’t have an exact answer to that question, a new study published by a journal for industry professionals titled Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Preventions may have that answer.

Severe Gum Disease May be Causing the Increase in Oral Cancer

Surprisingly, the increase in oral cancer may be directly linked to severe gum disease. The medical study carefully compared oral cancer rates amongst people with chronic periodontitis, or gum disease, and those who have had no history of chronic gum disease. After carefully comparing the rates, it was discovered that oral cancer rates were higher amongst people who had a history of untreated, severe gum disease than those who had no history of gum disease.

Does All Gum Disease Cause Oral Cancer?

Upon reading the results of the recent medical study linking gum disease with oral cancer, you may be worried that you are at risk of getting oral cancer because you have a minor case of gingivitis. If that is the case, don’t worry as not all types of gum disease are linked to an increased risk for oral cancer.

Dentists classify gum disease into two groups: gingivitis and periodontitis. Gingivitis causes red, inflamed gums around the teeth. It can be painful and spread throughout your entire mouth, but it is easily treatable. Periodontitis is more severe. It can cause tooth loss, bone loss, and even damage the gums and surrounding areas of the mouth. Periodontitis is the type of gum disease that the study suggests is linked to an increased risk of oral cancer.

However, if you suffer from gingivitis, you should make sure you are actively working with a dentist to treat it. Gingivitis, if left untreated, can progress into periodontitis. Once it progresses to periodontitis the treatment is more involved and it could put you in the “at risk” category for developing oral cancer.

Reduce Your Risk by Seeking Treatment for Chronic Periodontitis

While the bad news is that chronic periodontitis is linked to oral cancer, the good news is chronic periodontitis can be reversed with the help of your dentist. Periodontitis can be treated using non-surgical options such as antibiotics, root planing, scaling, and professional cleaning. In severe cases, it can be treated with pocket reduction surgery or flap surgery, bone grafts, soft tissue grafts, or guided tissue regeneration.

In addition to professional dental treatments, you can help reverse or treat periodontitis by making a number of lifestyle changes. Lifestyle changes such as brushing at least twice a day, flossing once a day, working to quit smoking, and scheduling regular appointments with your dentist can all help you reduce or prevent periodontitis.

How is Periodontitis Diagnosed?

Periodontitis can easily be diagnosed with a simple visit to the dentist. Your dentist will conduct a brief examination of your mouth. During this examination, he or she will be looking for noticeable signs of plaque or tartar build up, red inflamed gums, and easy bleeding around the teeth and gums. These are all signs that could indicate you may be suffering from some form of gum disease.

If your dentist suspects you may have periodontitis, he or she will measure the depth of the pockets around your teeth and gums. Using a small dental probe, your dentist will be able to accurately measure the depth of the pockets. The pockets in a healthy mouth measure between 1 and 3 mm. Pockets in people who suffer from periodontitis often measure 4 mm or deeper.

Worried you may have gum disease? Let the dental professionals at Bonham Dental Arts help you. Call our office to schedule an appointment for a routine examination. During the routine examination our dental professionals will check for gum disease. If it is discovered you do have gum disease, we will provide you with treatment recommendations that will help you improve your oral health.

Call us today to schedule an appointment.